Journalist Who Blew Whistle On CIA Drug Trade 'Commits Suicide'
AP | December 12, 2004
RELATED: Gary Webb Death - New Math Of Bush Reporter 'Suicides'
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Gary Webb, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter who wrote a controversial series of stories linking the CIA to crack cocaine trafficking in Los Angeles, has died at age 49.
Webb was found Friday morning at his home in Sacramento County, dead of an apparent suicide. Moving-company workers called authorities after discovering a note posted on his front door that read, "Please do not enter. Call 911 and ask for an ambulance."
Webb died of a gunshot wound to the head, according to the Sacramento County coroner's office.
Webb was part of the San Jose Mercury News reporting team that won a 1990 Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the Loma Prieta earthquake.
Webb's 1996 series in the Mercury News alleged that Nicaraguan drug traffickers had sold tons of crack cocaine in Los Angeles and funneled millions of dollars in profits to the CIA-supported Nicaraguan Contras during the 1980s.
The articles did not accuse the CIA of directly aiding drug dealers to raise money for the Contras, but implied that the agency was aware of the activity.
Major parts of Webb's reporting were later discredited by other newspaper investigations. An investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department found no evidence of a connection between the CIA and the drug traffickers.
In 1997, then-Mercury News executive editor Jerry Ceppos backed away from the series, saying "we fell short at every step of our process." Webb was transferred to one of the paper's suburban bureaus.
"This is just harassment," Webb said after his demotion. "This isn't the first time that a reporter went after the CIA and lost his job over it."
After quitting the newspaper in December 1997, Webb continued to defend his reporting with his 1999 book "Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion."
Born in Corona, Calif., to a military family, Webb dropped out of journalism school and went to work for the Kentucky Post and the Cleveland Plain Dealer before landing at the Mercury News.
Webb worked in state government after leaving the paper, most prominently as a member of an audit committee investigating former Gov. Gray Davis' controversial award of a $95 million no-bid contract to Oracle Corp. in 2001.
Earlier this year, Webb was one of a group of employees fired from the Assembly Speaker's Office of Member Services for failing to show up for work. He continued writing occasionally for various publications.
"All he ever wanted to do was write," said Webb's ex-wife, Susan Bell.
Webb is survived by two sons and a daughter.