This Case Still Matters
Gary Webb recently spoke with Peter Werbe about his new book, "Dark Alliance" -- and what it does and doesn't say.Peter Werbe: What's the importance of this story after so many years?Gary Webb: It's like Jesse Jackson said, "This is a story that challenges the moral authority of our government." When you had planeloads of cocaine coming in with the CIA looking the other way, and the people that are doing it are turned loose if they're caught, how do you justify locking kids up for 20 or 30 years for selling 2 or 3 ounces?PW: Crack reached epidemic levels quickly; why?Webb: Crack hit South Central LA in 1982 and just exploded. LA had a head start on the rest of the country, because this was right at the time the Contras were bringing in cocaine, and at the same time people on the street were figuring out how to take this powder and turn it into crack. This was probably the worst time in history to take very cheap powder cocaine and introduce it into black neighborhoods.PW: Wasn't the guns-for-dope scenario common knowledge?Webb: This story had been told in part before, but what broke the new ground was my research tracking the stuff to the streets. My story caught on because people in black neighborhoods, particularly South Central, suddenly realized they had an explanation for why they were deluged with the crack problem all of a sudden.PW: Do you contend this one drug ring created the whole problem?Webb: I'm not saying they did it all, but it created a market for it where there was none before.PW: Some critics charge that the CIA brings in drugs to disrupt the African-American community. Is this true?Webb: No, not at all. One of the unfortunate things that came out of my newspaper series is that a lot of people interpreted it that way. The CIA itself wasn't doing it, but they knew it was going on, they allowed it to happen, and didn't want to stop it for political reasons. It would have been horribly embarrassing for them if the American public realized that these so-called freedom fighters we were supporting in Central America were drug traffickers. But they needed money for this war and Congress wouldn't give it to them.PW: How far up the CIA chain of command did knowledge of this trafficking in drugs go?Webb: Just recently, there were documents released by the CIA inspector general following an agency pledge to investigate the charges made in my series showing that in 1982 there was a written agreement between U.S. Attorney General William French Smith and CIA Director William Casey allowing the agency not to report evidence of drug trafficking by its agents or assets. This tells me that use of drug traffickers to help the war was premeditated.