The Nicaragua Network worked in 1996 to get the word out about the "Contra
Cocaine" scandal in which cocaine brought into the U.S. in CIA planes and
sold in Los Angeles to raise money for the contras was turned into crack
addicting thousands and enabling gangs to buy automatic weapons.
Gary Webb, who wrote the articles in the San Jose "Mercury News" which revealed
this information, now asks for our help for the defense of Al Giordano,
the publisher of "The Narco News Bulletin," a web site that covers the
Giordano is being sued for libel by targets of his anti-drug
reporting, just at a time when Plan Colombia urgently needs his type of
March 16, 2001
Zero Hour for Narco News Please Distribute Widely
"Everything I have printed I know to be true and I have documented with
the facts," says Al Giordano, publisher of The Narco News Bulletin, a Web
site that covers the drug war in Latin America (www.narconews.com).
Link to this letter at: http://www.narconews.com/webbletter.html
Publish This Message Wherever You Can
A Letter from Pulitzer Prize Awarded Journalist Gary Webb:
Not long after I wrote a series for the San Jose Mercury News about
a drug ring that had flooded South Central Los Angeles with cheap cocaine
at the beginning of the crack explosion there, a strange thing happened to
me. I was silenced.
This, believe it or not, came as something of a surprise to me. For
17 years I had been writing newspaper stories about grafters, crooked
bankers, corrupt politicians and killers -- and winning armloads of
journalism awards for it. Some of my stories had convened grand juries and
sent important people to well-deserved jail cells. Others ended up on
20/20, and later became a best-selling book (not written by me,
unfortunately.) I started doing television news shows, speaking to college
journalism classes and professional seminars. I had major papers bidding
against each other to hire me.
So when I happened across information implicating an arm of the Central
Intelligence Agency in the cocaine trade, I had no qualms about jumping
onto it with both feet. What did I have to worry about? I was a
newspaperman for a big city, take-no-prisoners newspaper. I had the First
Amendment, a law firm, and a multi-million dollar corporation watching my
Besides, this story was a fucking outrage. Right-wing Latin American drug
dealers were helping finance a CIA-run covert war in Nicaragua by selling
tons of cocaine to the Crips and Bloods in LA, who were turning it into
crack and spreading it through black neighborhoods nationwide. And all the
available evidence pointed to the sickening conclusion that elements of
the US government had known of it and had either tacitly encouraged it or,
at a minimum, done absolutely nothing to stop it.
And that's when this strange thing happened. The national news media,
instead of using its brute strength to force the truth from our
government, decided that its time would be better spent investigating me
and my reporting. They kicked me around pretty good, I have to admit. (At
one point, I was even accused of making movie deals with a crack dealer
I'd written about. The DEA raided my film agent's office looking for any
scrap of paper to back up this lie and appeared disappointed when they
came up emptyhanded.)
To this day, no one has ever been able to show me a single error of fact
in anything I've written about this drug ring, which includes a 600-page
book about the whole tragic mess. Indeed, most of what has come out since
shows that my newspaper stories grossly underestimated the extent of our
government's knowledge, an error to which I readily confess. But, in the
end, the facts didn't really matter. What mattered was making the damned
thing go away, shutting people up, and making anyone who demanded the
truth appear to be a wacky conspiracy theorist. And it worked.
As a result, the CIA was allowed to investigate itself, release a heavily
censored report admitting that it had worked with cocaine traffickers, and
simultaneously declare itself innocent of any wrongdoing. And that's where
our firebrand national news media has let the matter lie to this day.
Now it's NarcoNews' turn for the silence treatment. And, if I had to
guess, I'd venture to say that it's probably more important to the folks
selling us the Drug War to shut up Al Giordano than it is to silence
mainstream reporters who, in my father's eloquent words, wouldn't say shit
if they had a mouth full of it.
No one can lean on NarcoNews's editors, or their bosses, or its board of
directors to reign Al in or, failing that, reassign him to the night copy
desk. The only person they can lean on is Al, who doesn't take to being
leaned on. And they can't shut down the Internet either. So two choices
They can grit their teeth and suffer Al's reporting, day after aggravating
day, as he exposes the ugly underside of this endless war on drugs - and
actually makes things happen, like real journalists are supposed to do. Or
they can try to make it impossible for him to do his job by harassing him
with specious lawsuits, bedevil him with lawyers and depositions and
interrogatories and subpoenas, and reduce him to penury. Why? To silence
him. To make him go away. To keep him from looking under rocks that
reporters aren't supposed to look under.
Make no mistake. This court fight isn't about any particular story
NarcoNews has done. It's about ALL of them, and all of the ones yet to
come. And it's a battle over the continued independence of Internet
journalism as well. The silencing of Al Giordano and NarcoNews isn't a
theoretical possibility that might happen a couple years from now. It's
already happening. Al and his volunteer lawyers are hip-deep in it right
now. And they need our help.
Narco News and Al Giordano face an April 9th deadline to respond to the
Banamex censorship lawsuit or they will be declared in default - guilty
without a single fact being heard in a case where the facts prove them
A civil lawsuit is different than a criminal case: complex legal issues
require trained lawyers to dig through the law books on procedural issues
so far from the basic truths about photographs of cocaine trafficking on
the coast of Mexico. The bank's lawyers at Akin Gump are paid astronomic
fees to raise every small point of process and delay the day when the
facts come to light in New York City court.
If this case goes to trial, that's when Narco News will triumph. And all
of us will win with it as the real facts of the corruption of the
international drug war come to light in the media center of New York.
The hard part comes right now, in navigating the maze of irrelevant
process issues, as any reporter who has covered the courts has seen. Narco
News will either be able to have skilled attorneys get them through this
complicated phase or - I can see it coming - Al will have to take a long
trip to the law library himself, abandon reporting for the coming weeks or
months in order to wage his own defense. Then you and I will not be able
to read new reports on Narco News at this key moment when Plan Colombia
explodes regionally and more Latin American voices are raised against the
drug war, like the Mexican police chief yesterday, who, if not for Narco
News, would never be heard by those of us who speak and read in English.
That is what is at stake: Whether a skilled reporter has to retire for
months to become a pro se lawyer, or whether he can continue reporting the
facts to us.
I was silenced but am not silenced any more. When, the other day, the film
rights to my book Dark Alliance about US complicity in the cocaine trade
were purchased for a television movie, I wrote Al to pledge part of those
proceeds to his defense. In the years to come, there is no question that
Narco News will be proven right and will be helping the next generation of
reporters fight efforts to censor them.
But wouldn't it be wonderful if this time the censors failed entirely to
take Al and Narco News out of circulation, for a year, for months, even
for a week? Wouldn't that be the best deterrent against bankers and
lobbyists from waging these frivolous lawsuits against Free Speech on the
Internet? I understand that Narco News needs only about $13,000 more to be
able to have the most difficult stage of the lawsuit process - that which
it faces immediately - handled with professional legal assistance, thus
allowing Al to continue expending his energy and time in reporting to us
the facts. One person of means could solve this problem with a check. Two
dozen people giving $500 could do it. 130 people giving a hundred
dollars... you can do the math: If half of Narco News' readers give one
dollar each, Narco News will keep publishing.
The hard part is that it must be done now, today. Please join me in
sending a check to:
Drug War on Trial
C/O Thomas Lesser, Esq.
Lesser, Newman, Souweine & Nasser
39 Main Street
Northampton, MA 01060
Al often says that Narco News never wanted to ask its readers for a cent,
and I sense that it pains him to ask the readers who benefit from his
reporting to support his defense in court. That's why I'm writing you.
This lawsuit is bigger than the fate of one Internet publication. It is
larger than, but it will decide, free speech issues in cyberspace for
years to come. What is at stake here is nothing less than whether the
public knows the truth and the facts about the war on drugs in our
If we don't all act today, we will be in the dark again tomorrow,
For information about the lawsuit and its defense: