. . . Then the story of this reporter's apparent suicide would look a little too simple to be true:
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.In the end, we'd learn that his quote should really have read, "This isn't the first time a reporter went after the CIA and lost his life over it." Peter Dale Scott, how did you manage to live so long?
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."