Kill the Messenger: What You Need to Know

Timeline

1978

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) files reports that Norwin Meneses is smuggling kilos of cocaine into the U.S.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) links a seized major Panamanian cocaine supply to Meneses

1979

Meneses and fellow smuggler Danilo Blandon come to the U.S. as “political refugees”

Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Samoza is overthrown by Communist rebels, and flees to the U.S.

1980

“Freeway” Ricky Ross begins dealing cocaine in South Central L.A.

Former Nicaraguan Guardsmen unite to form a guerilla army, training in Honduras and Guatemala

The Nicaraguan Civil War begins

Samoza is assassinated in Paraguay

Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush are elected President and Vice President, respectively, of the U.S.

1981

Formation of the Guardsmen’s Nicaraguan Democratic Force/Fuerza Democrática Nicaragüense (FDN), aka the Contras, is announced in Honduras

The DEA links Meneses’ ongoing cocaine dealings to direct funding of the Contras in their ongoing battles against the Nicaraguan government

Contra official Julio Zavala begins selling cocaine in San Francisco

President Reagan signs a secret order allowing the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to begin paramilitary operations against the Nicaraguan government

1982

The Contra army’s revolutionary activities commence with a CIA-sanctioned sabotage of Nicaraguan bridges

Norwin Meneses is arrested by the FBI for laundering drug money; subsequently freed, he and Danilo Blandon open a T-shirt business in L.A., which hosts Contra meetings

The first [Rep. Edward] Boland Amendment, in which the U.S. Congress prohibits CIA aid to the Contras, passes; President Reagan signs the Defense Appropriations Act with the Amendment attached as a rider

1983

Facilitated by Meneses and Blandon, Ricky Ross begins selling ready-made crack cocaine and quickly corners the market in L.A.

In the “Frogman Case,” police seize 430 pounds of “Contra cocaine” from a Colombian freighter in San Francisco

The CIA funnels $45,000 to Julio Zavala for him to buy weapons and arm Contras

The second Boland Amendment, reaffirming Congress’ prohibiting CIA aid to the Contras, is passed

 

1984

The third Boland Amendment is passed by Congress

Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush are re-elected U.S. President and Vice President

 

1985

Robert Parry and Brian Barger break the Contra/cocaine smuggling connection in an Associated Press article; they are subsequently attacked in the media, and back off of further coverage

Meneses moves to Costa Rica

 

1986

U.S. Senator John Kerry forms a committee to investigate allegations in the Parry/Barger article

The “Iran-Contra scandal” is widely reported in the media, revealing the clandestine U.S. sales of arms to Iran with proceeds being diverted to the Contras

1987

Hearings are held by the John Kerry-chaired Senate Foreign Relations Committee

L.A. law enforcement convenes a “Freeway Rick Task Force” to shut down the flourishing Ross operation

 

1988

The Nicaraguan Civil War ends

Journalist Gary Webb joins the San Jose Mercury News as reporter; he, his wife Sue Webb and their children Ian Webb, Eric Webb, and Christine Webb relocate from Cleveland to California

George H.W. Bush is elected U.S. President

The Kerry Report [“Report on Drugs, Law Enforcement and Foreign Policy”] is published, confirming individual Contras and Contras associates’ involvement in cocaine trafficking; “U.S. officials involved in Central America failed to address the drug issue for fear of jeopardizing the war efforts against Nicaragua…In the name of supporting the Contras, we abandoned the responsibility our government has for protecting our citizens from all threats to their security and well-being.”

 

1989

Ricky Ross is arrested in Los Angeles

Norwin Meneses is arrested and jailed in Nicaragua

1990

The Pulitzer Prize for General News Reporting is awarded to six San Jose Mercury News reporters including Gary Webb, for stories on the Loma Prieta earthquake

Danilo Blandon is arrested in San Diego, and makes a plea agreement with the U.S. government

 

1992

Bill Clinton is elected U.S. President

 

1994

Blandon is released from prison to be deployed as a DEA informant

 

1995

Coral Baca, girlfriend of jailed cocaine trafficker Rafael Cornejo, makes contact with Webb

Webb begins his investigation into the CIA’s Contras/cocaine connection

1996

Webb’s three-part “Dark Alliance” series of articles is published in August in the San Jose Mercury News, and with extras on the paper’s website

Webb is named the Northern California chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ)’s Journalist of the Year

The Washington Post, The New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times denounce “Dark Alliance” and Webb’s investigation

In November, John Deutch, the Director of the CIA, visits Locke High School in South Central Los Angeles to meet with neighborhood citizens and address the “Dark Alliance” allegations

Clinton is re-elected U.S. President

1997

Deutch leaves the CIA

Mercury News executive editor Jerry Ceppos publishes a front-page editorial critical of Gary Webb’s “Dark Alliance” pieces

Webb is reassigned by the Mercury News to a small bureau in Cupertino, far from his wife and children at home in Sacramento

Webb resigns from the Mercury News

 

1998

In January, the CIA publishes Vol. 1 of The [CIA Inspector General] Hitz Report, which criticizes Webb for getting the story wrong – by pointing out that although many of his allegations were correct, he understated the level of the CIA’s implication in Contra drug crimes

The [Justice Department Inspector General] Bromwich Report is published, vindicating much of Webb’s investigation

In October, the CIA publishes Vol. 2 of The Hitz Report, which reveals even more details of CIA and Reagan Administration complicity in drug trafficking for the Contras; consumed by the President Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal, the national media largely ignores the Report

Rep. Maxine Waters reveals the existence of a 1982 “Letter of Understanding” from the Justice Department freeing the CIA from legally having to report drug-smuggling by its assets

Webb publishes his book, Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion

 

1999

Robert Parry publishes his book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & “Project Truth”

2000

The House Intelligence Committee acknowledges that the CIA protected Contra drug traffickers

Gary and Sue Webb divorce

2004

At age 49, Gary Webb dies of two gunshot wounds in a suburb of Sacramento; his death, seven years to the day that he resigned from the Mercury News, is ruled a suicide

2006

Journalist Nick Schou publishes his book, Kill the Messenger: How the CIA’s Crack-Cocaine Controversy Destroyed Journalist Gary Webb

Los Angeles Times managing editor Leo Wolinsky publishes editorial by Schou, acknowledging the paper’s unfair portrayal a decade earlier of Webb’s investigation