In August 1996, the San Jose Mercury News published a groundbreaking investigation, a year in the making, written by journalist Gary Webb entitled “Dark Alliance: The Story Behind the Crack Explosion.”
The series examined the origins of crack cocaine in Los Angeles that devastated vulnerable African American neighborhoods. Webb claimed the Contra rebels in Nicaragua were shipping cocaine into the U.S. Crack was then flooding Compton and South-Central Los Angeles in the mid-80s after being turned into crack. Relatively new at the time, crack was a highly addictive substance sold in rocks that could be smoked.
Webb reported that the anti-communist Contra rebels in Nicaragua had played a major role in creating the U.S. cocaine trade. The profits supported their fight against Nicaragua’s revolutionary Sandinista government in the 1980s.
The Contras were right-wing rebel groups backed and funded by the U.S. and active from 1979 to the early ’90s. They opposed the socialist Sandinista government in Nicaragua.
Webb suggested that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) knew about the Contras and protected their cocaine trade. The series findings enraged readers, particularly in the Los Angeles African-American community, and led to four major investigations.
The secret flow of drugs and money, Webb reported, had a direct link to the crack epidemic that devastated California’s most vulnerable African American neighborhoods.
Here are 10 things to know about Gary Webb and his report that linked the CIA to crack cocaine.