Thursday, December 10, 2015

El Chapo v ISIS? & Gary Webb - Victim of Truth

El Chapo: Ready to take on ISIS?
In the wake of recent deadly attacks on innocent civilians by ISIS in Egypt and Paris, and the killing of 14 people in San Bernardino being attributed to a radicalized couple's support of ISIS, has the deadly terrorist group overplayed it's hand?                                                                     
According to a story posted on the Cartelblog on Monday, a Mexican blogger with links to the powerful Sinaloa Cartel, they may have.

The unknown blogger reported that Joaquin Guzman Loera, AKA "El Chapo" (the Sinaloa leader who recently escaped from prison by escaping through a tunnel under the shower in his cell) recently sent an encrypted email directly to top ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi warning the Islamic terrorists to stop destroying Sinaloa Cartel drug shipments being shipped to rapidly-expanding drug markets in the middle east - or else.

Hard to tell if the story is legit as the inner workings of the Sinaloa Cartel are as classified as any government, but if true, who knows?

Perhaps the old adage that to catch a thief you need to send a thief applies equally to shutting down ISIS.

Speaking of deadly Latin American drug cartels...  
Investigative journalist Gary Stephen Webb
Today, December 10th, marks the eleventh anniversary of the death of Gary Webb (pictured left), one of the most courageous and controversial investigative journalists of the 20th century.

Albeit one whose name is far less familiar than other nationally-recognized journalists like Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

Webb's career as an investigative journalist spanned 24 years including stints with the Kentucky Post, Cleveland Plain Dealer and the San Jose Mercury News.

But he is most well known for "Dark Alliance", the explosive three-part series he wrote for the San Jose Mercury News in August of 1996.

At the height of the devastating crack epidemic in America, Webb's series explored how Rick "Freeway" Ross, one of the biggest drug dealers in Los Angeles, colluded with Oscar Danilo Blandon and Norwin Meneses (two Nicaraguans who helped smuggle cocaine into the U.S.) to traffic huge amounts of cocaine into LA which helped to fuel the explosion of crack in mostly African-American neighborhoods.

Oscar Blandon (left) and Rick Ross
Webb's story sparked a mixture of outrage and skepticism as he alleged that Blandon and Meneses were able to freely ship massive quantities of cocaine into the U.S. and elude capture by the Drug Enforcement Agency because they were trafficking cocaine on behalf of the anti-communist Contra rebels - who in turn were being financed by the CIA.

While the CIA and a number of major newspapers devoted significant time and resources to poking holes into Webb's story to discredit him as a journalist, there's no question that the U.S. government had been aware for years that the Contra's were heavily involved in drug trafficking to help finance their war against the pro-communist Sandanista government.

As journalist Ryan Devereaux noted last September in a well-researched article on The chronicling how Gary Webb was discredited entitled 'Managing a Nightmare: How the CIA Watched Over the Destruction of Gary Webb', a 1989 Senate Sub-Committee (chaired by current Secretary of State John Kerry) published a detailed 1,166-page report on U.S. covert operations in Latin America and the Caribbean that makes clear the American government were well aware of the Contra's operations to smuggle drugs and weapons.

Recently declassified CIA documents show that the agency did in fact work with major newspapers (including the LA Times) to target Gary Webb and destroy his reputation partly out of concern over the fact that he intended to write a book about his allegations.

Discrediting journalists by governments is not new, it's a technique intelligence agencies like the CIA and Britain's GCHQ call "credential harvesting."

Webb's story is significant not just because of the allegations of U.S. government complacency in flooding poor urban neighborhoods around the country with cheap and highly-addictive crack cocaine, but also because it was one of the first stories to blow up on the Internet without the aid of a large mainstream media outlet.

It was a huge step for the kind of independent journalism now regularly produced by Frontline  or Vice.

Now people who are far more eloquent, versed, experienced and well-researched than I am have written extensively about Gary Webb, so if you're interested, take some time to look at Webb's Wikipedia page.

You can also check out Kill the Messenger, a 2014 film based on Gary Webb's experiences starring Jeremy Renner and Robert Patrick.

In the wake of efforts to discredit his story, Gary Webb eventually left the San Jose Mercury News, but he continued his work as an investigative journalist until his death.

On December 10, 2004, Gary Stephen Webb was found dead in his Carmichael, California home with two gunshot wounds to the head.

While the Sacramento County Coroner's office ruled his death a suicide, there are many, including yours truly who question the ability of anyone to shoot themselves in the head with a gun twice.

Especially a man with a wife and three kids with a life-long passion for investigative journalism.

Given the subject matter of his expose, the people and institutions he exposed and the repercussions (including four federal hearings and a tarnished reputation for the CIA), I certainly can't blame anyone in particular, but the circumstances of his death are less than clear to say the least.

As posted on Wikipedia, in a chapter published in an award-winning anthology on criticism of the press titled 'Into the Buzzsaw: Leading Journalist Expose the Myth of a Free Press', Gary Webb wrote:

"If we had met five years ago, you wouldn't have found a more staunch defender of the newspaper industry than me ... And then I wrote some stories that made me realize how sadly misplaced my bliss had been. The reason I'd enjoyed such smooth sailing for so long hadn't been, as I'd assumed, because I was careful and diligent and good at my job ... The truth was that, in all those years, I hadn't written anything important enough to suppress ..."  

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