A fact-based movie thriller to be released soon, “Kill the Messenger,” tells the story of Gary Webb, the investigative journalist whom the CIA found it easy to discredit when his series in the San Jose Mercury News, “Dark Alliance,” threatened an explosive national security scandal. The series accused the CIA of looking the other way when Nicaraguan Contras, its Reagan era clients, used the profits of crack cocaine smuggling that flooded the streets of Los Angeles to support their guerrilla war against the Sandinistas.
It was easy to discredit Webb, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, because the country’s leading newspapers were receptive to CIA denials at the time. And they were receptive to those denials because they could not believe they had been beaten to such a major exposé by a second-tier newspaper, but even more because a reputation for responsibility in the eyes of the intelligence “community” had become more precious to them than the credibility and integrity of a fearless reporter. They didn’t just disagree with him; they destroyed his career, and he committed suicide. Georg Hodel remembers.