Source: San Francisco Bay Guardian
Contact:   Wed, 22 Jul 1998
Author: Norman Solomon


A few days ago, on July 17, the New York Times published a front-page story
under a blunt headline: "CIA Says It Used Nicaraguan Rebels Accused of Drug

The lead of the new Times article was fairly straightforward: "The Central
Intelligence Agency continued to work with about two dozen Nicaraguan
rebels and their supporters during the 1980s despite allegations that they
were trafficking in drugs, according to a classified study by the CIA. The
new study has found that the agency's decision to keep those paid agents,
or to continue dealing with them in some less formal relationship, was made
by top officials at headquarters in Langley, Va., in the midst of the war
waged by the CIA-backed contras against Nicaragua's leftist Sandinista

So what went through Gary Webb's mind when he read the July 17 article in
the Times?

"One thing I thought should have been prominently displayed," Webb said,
"were the words 'After years of denials by both the CIA and the national
newspapers of record ...' This is yet another example of the CIA lying to
the press and the public -- for years -- and the newspaper of record
doesn't bother to mention it."

Webb added that the Times story "also forgot to mention that this
'confession' means our country's major newspapers helped keep these facts
covered up by unquestioningly passing the CIA's falsehoods along to the
public and denigrating any journalist who tried to report the truth."

George Orwell would have understood. In his novel 1984, he wrote about the
newspeak process: "To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in
them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it
becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as
it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while
to take account of the reality which one denies -- all this is
indispensably necessary."

As Webb spells out in his excellent new book, Dark Alliance: The CIA, the
Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion, top editors at the Mercury News
supported his enterprising journalism for many months but, as the pressure
from national media powerhouses intensified, gradually caved in.

Another journalist who assessed the implications of last week's New York
Times article was Robert Parry. In late 1985, as an Associated Press
reporter, he teamed up with colleague Brian Barger to expose drug
trafficking by the contras. "In our Dec. 20, 1985, story, we reported that
the CIA already was aware of contra cocaine smuggling," Parry recalled in
an interview. "Over more than a decade, the evidence of those crimes has
built and built, now established beyond any reasonable doubt."

As for the latest New York Times treatment, Parry is far from content:
"From the very beginning -- when the New York Times ignored the original AP
story -- the 'newspaper of record' which publishes 'all the news that's fit
to print' has turned its back on the contra-drug story," he said. "Even
worse, it has denigrated those who have tried to bring public attention to
this horrendous crime of state."

Now, Parry says, "in a story stuck in the lower left corner of the front
page -- the most inconspicuous front-page positioning possible -- the Times
acknowledged that the CIA's inspector general had determined that there was
substance to the contra-drug allegations after all.... But the Times still
lacked the journalistic integrity to lay out the larger case.... The Times
story looked more like damage control, doing the minimum to protect the
CIA's reputation and its own."

Norman Solomon is coauthor of Wizards of Media Oz: Behind the Curtain of
Mainstream News. His column appears weekly at

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Checked-by: (Joel W. Johnson)