Reed Irvine - Editor
  October B, 1996  


  • Tripped by Internet
  • "Freeway Rick" Role
  • "Cowardice of Convictions"
  • Iran-Contra Redux
  •  What You Can Do
  • Notes
  • In an act of nasty journalistic malpractice that has provided new, but false, fuel for racist firebrands, the San Jose Mercury News has resurfaced a years-old lie: that drug money was a major source of the money the CIA used to finance democratic resistance to the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua. What makes the articles reprehensible is their addition of a nasty new twist to the lie: a charge that the CIA- Contra link introduced crack cocaine to the inner cities of America, and especially in Los Angeles.

    Professional loudmouths such as Rep. Maxine Waters (D., Calif.); Joe Madison, an NAACP board member who hosts a radio talk show in Washington; onetime comedian Dick Gregory; and the Rev. Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam seized upon the stories as further proof of America's genocidal perfidies. For these persons, the charge fit neatly into the same "blame-whitey" matrix that accuses the CIA of introducing AIDS into Africa and the inner cities.

    Circulation, however, does not equate with verification, and in its totality the San Jose Mercury News series stands as the grandest journalistic hoax since Janet Cooke invented an eight-year-old heroin addict for The Washington Post. But there is a marked difference. The Post confessed error, fired Cooke and returned the Pulitzer Prize won in her name. In San Jose, however, responsible editors have yet to eat crow and apologize.

    Long investigative stories by three major newspapers--The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and The New York Times--showed that the Mercury News articles were false in every major respect.

    Our investigation goes a step further. We examined the materials available to reporter Gary Webb, author of the Mercury News series. We found evidence that he knowingly printed false or misleading statements, and that he ignored sworn court testimony--which he heard in person--which cuts the factual legs from beneath his articles. Webb used highly selective portions of court testimony and other material available to him, highlighting scattered quotations that seemingly bolstered his case, and ignoring other portions that exposed his work as a hoax. Seldom have we encountered a more botched reporting job.

    On August 18, the Mercury News ran the first of three long articles under the headline, "America's 'crack' plague has roots in Nicaraguan war." Webb wrote, "Thousands of young black men are serving long prison terms for selling cocaine--a drug that was virtually unobtainable in black neighborhoods before members of the CIA's army started bringing it into South- Central [Los Angeles] in the 1980s at bargain-basement prices." Titled the 'Dark Alliance' each article featured the CIA's logo superimposed over a man smoking crack.

    The central figures cited by Webb were Oscar Danilo Blandon, a Nicaraguan emigre and admitted drug dealer turned government informant; Norvin Meneses, another Nicaraguan who was his initial supplier; and Los Angeles dope pusher Ricky "Freeway Rick" Ross. Webb cast Ross, a black, as the unwitting victim of the CIA drug deals. Webb also did something ethically questionable for a reporter: he told Ross's defense lawyers about the claimed CIA link, and coached them on how to use the information as an excuse to keep the dope pusher out of jail. Webb did not reveal this dual role as reporter and defense coach to his readers.

    Splashed over page after page, with striking graphics and photographs, the series had the first-glance appearance of well- documented authenticity. But even a cursory reading shows that the articles are long on innuendo and short on facts, and are rife with internal contradictions that undercut Webb's thesis.

    Tripped by Internet

    In an attempt to add a patina of authenticity to its articles, the Mercury News posted its supposed backup documentation on its Internet website. This was an error, a grave one. What the paper offered as "proof" is a melange of papers drawn from the 1980s inquiries by the two Congressional Iran-Contra committee; special counsel Lawrence Walsh; another inquiry by a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee headed by Senator John Kerry (D., Mass.), and material from various California dope proceedings and investigations.

    We downloaded the documents from the paper's Internet site-- -- and compared them with Webb's articles. We found that the paper's own documents undercut the articles. Further, a check with Federal court officials in San Diego, where "Freeway Rick" Ross was tried last March, revealed that Webb simply did not report important testimony that showed his articles to be factually bogus.

    The grain of truth from which Webb spun his fantasy is that persons on the fringe of the Contra movement indeed dealt in drugs -- and that field officers on occasion looked the other way. The head of the CIA's Central America task force so testified to the Kerry committee, in an admission that was well-publicized at the time. But neither Kerry, Walsh, nor two hostile Democratic-controlled Congressional committees that were out for Reagan-Bush scalps before the 1988 and 1992 elections could take the story any further. Nor, for that matter, could a battalion or so of investigative journalists who spent the 1980s probing for CIA drug perfidies.

    Not bound by any standards of proof, Webb took this vague, acknowledged link and transformed it into something far grander.

    The villain of Webb's work (aside from the CIA) was Blandon, who testified before a San Francisco grand jury in 1994 that he fled Nicaragua after the 1979 Sandinista takeover and settled in Los Angeles. He started dealing cocaine in 1981. He claimed he hoped to make enough money to enable him to donate to the Contras. His first supplier, he said, was Juan Norvin Meneses, a Nicaraguan who was also raising money for the Contras.

    Webb wrote that coke "was virtually unobtainable in black neighborhoods before members of the CIA's army started bringing it into South-Central [Los Angeles] at bargain-basement prices." Here Webb knowingly ignored--and did not tell his readers court testimony which said exactly the opposite. First, Blandon was not Ross's initial drug contact. "Freeway Rick" was first arrested for dealing in crack in 1979, when Blandon was still living in Nicaragua. Further, according to court testimony, Blandon was only one of many coke wholesalers who dealt with Ross. During his March trial in San Diego, Ross said he managed to get "cut-rate prices" because he played one dealer against another.

    A second major flaw was Webb's description of Ross as the "Johnny Appleseed of crack in California." Webb apparently did not do any serious research about the history of crack cocaine in California. Reporters for the Los Angeles Times did in preparing an exhaustive series that demolished Webb's work. They found that crack "was circulating in the San Francisco Bay area as early as 1970s," and that in 1976 it was brought to Los Angeles in bulk by a dealer named Thomas "Tootle" Reese. By 1979, a Colombian cartel headed by Carlos Ledher Rivas was bringing planes of coke into Los Angeles from Florida. The Times investigation concluded that "Freeway Rick," although indisputably a major dealer, was only one of many drug kingpins in Los Angeles

    The third flaw in Webb's story was his depiction of Blandon as a "leader" in the Contra forces. The Los Angeles Times has made it clear that his contribution was minuscule. Webb managed to convert this tenuous connection into a massive conspiracy. According to Blandon's grand jury testimony quoted by Webb, he and Meneses met in 1981 with Enrique Bermudez, who has been publicly identified as a CIA asset who was a leader of the Fuerza Democratica Nicaraguense (Nicaraguan Defense Force, or FDN). Webb's descriptions of this meeting show his propensity for shuffling the facts to suit his story-line.

    In his Aug. 18 article, Webb wrote, "'There is a saying that the ends justify the means,' former FDN leader and drug dealer Oscar Danilo Blandon Reyes testified during a recent cocaine trafficking trial in San Diego. 'And that's what Mr. Bermudez (the CIA agent who commanded the FDN) told us in Honduras. OK? So we started raising money for the Contra revolution.'" Webb used the same quotation again in an Aug. 19 article, but admitted that there had been no discussion of drugs. He wrote, "While Blandon says Bermudez didn't know cocaine would be the fund. raising device they used, [our emphasis] the presence of the mysterious Mr. Meneses strongly suggests otherwise."

    However interpreted, this odd sentence fits no known definition of "evidence" that Bermudez had any knowledge of cocaine trafficking. There is also the question of just how much of the drug money, if any, went to the Contras, and what portion of that was for arms. This is another instance where the Internet documents are at variance with what Webb wrote. In the lead paragraph of his Aug. 18 article, Webb wrote that the drug ring "funneled millions in drug profits to a Latin America guerrilla army run by the U. S. Central Intelligence Agency."

    But Blandon's grand jury testimony, 37 pages in all posted on the Mercury News Internet site, falls far short of supporting the claim. Blandon claimed that he had bought pickup trucks and "clothes, medicines" which were sent to Nicaragua with some of his drug profits. He made no mention of the money being used for arms. The Los Angeles Times re- ported that Blandon, Meneses and others who had worked for them have all said that the claim that they channeled large amounts of drug profits to the Contras is false. They all say that their contributions totaled less than $50,000.

    Blandon testified that when Reagan assumed office and began providing money for the Contras any help he could give was no longer necessary. He dated the change as "1982, 1983." Since he began selling cocaine to Ross in 1982, there was little if any overlap between his support for the Contras and his dealings with Ross. He also claimed that he stopped doing business with his partner, Norvin Meneses in 1983, turning increasingly to other suppliers, mainly Colombians. Later in the 1980s he left the drug business altogether and pursued other, legitimate interests in Florida.

    Persons in the Contra leadership scoff at Webb's depiction of Meneses and Blandon as major figures in the movement. The Mercury News ran a photograph of Norvin Meneses alongside FDN leader Adolfo Calero at a 1984 fundraiser in San Francisco. Calero told us by phone from Managua that he does not remember either Meneses or Blandon. "I met hundreds of persons those years," he said.

    After a bankruptcy, Blandon returned to Los Angeles and coke trafficking in 1989. By this time, his claimed connections with the Contras had long ended--and so had the Sandinista regime itself, ousted through free elections that autumn. When he was arrested again, he turned informant and helped the DEA in a sting that caused Ross's arrest.

    Blandon never tried to raise the "I did it for the CIA" defense even when he was arrested later and faced substantial jail time. And indeed, in all his testimony he has made no claim of any contact with the CIA. Webb's articles do not address the issue of why he remained silent about work for the United States government that (had it existed) so many other criminals have tried to use to escape or reduce punishment.

    Instead, Webb cited a December, 1986 FBI memo quoting Blandon's lawyer, Bradley Brunon, of Los Angeles, as telling the bureau, "CIA winked at this sort of thing...[Brunon] indicated that now U.S. Congress had voted funds for the Nicaraguan Contra movement, U.S. government appears to be turning against organizations like this."

    But what did Brunon actually know? Deep into his first story, the S7th paragraph, Webb wrote, "Blandon's lawyer, Brunon, said in an interview that his client never told him directly that he was selling cocaine for the CIA, but the prominent Los Angeles defense attorney drew his own conclusions from the 'atmosphere of CIA and clandestine activities' that surrounded Blandon and his Nicaraguan friends." Seemingly neither Webb nor Brunon considered Blandon and his friends were surrounded by a clandestine atmosphere because they were drug traffickers and did not wish to attract any attention to themselves. Caught and facing life in prison, Blandon gave what prosecutors called "essential information" in a drug murder case and also against persons including Ross. He was sentenced to 48 months of which he served 21, and was then hired as an informant for the Drug Enforcement Administration; ac- cording to court filings, he had been paid more than $160,000 for his undercover work.

    "Freeway Rick" Role

    Which brings us to Webb's second central figure, the Los Angeles drug gangster Ricky Ross. (He got the name "Freeway" because of properties along Los Angeles freeways which he bought with drug profits.) Ross, understandably, has warmed to his martyrdom since Webb and the Mercury News took up his cause.

    Although Webb wrote extensively about Ross's background, he omitted something which the dealer told the Los Angeles Times in an interview published Dec. 20, 1994. Ross told the Times he sold his first crack in 1979. He made no mention of Blandon whatsoever, and, according to the Times, claimed that it was God who "put me down to be the cocaine man."

    So how did he hit upon the notion that he was the pawn of a CIA plot? Webb sought out Ross's attorney and suggested that he pursue the Blandon connection. The U.S. Attorney's Office had identified Blandon as the informant who fingered Ross. During the trial, held in March, five months before the Mercury News articles appeared, Webb repeatedly met with defense lawyer Alan Fenster to suggest questions to ask Blandon. Prosecutor L.J. O'Neale eventually protested in open court. This was not reported in the Mercury News.

    Nor did the Mercury News report Webb's double role when Fenster filed a motion for a new trial claiming government misconduct. As prosecutor O'Neale tartly told the court, Webb's articles were the "primary source of information" for the motion and were worthless as evidence. As to the claim that Ross sold cocaine for the CIA, O'Neale wrote, "This is not only pernicious hogwash, it is hogwash created by the defendant himself...In court, Ross's version of events was tested by cross- examination and by proof. In the media he is unfettered by such considerations."

    Another area in which Webb did not tell Mercury News readers the full story concerned the so-called "CIA defense." In his opening argument, Fenster said he would "prove" that Ross was the victim of CIA entrapment; however, he offered not a shred of evidence on the point. Webb attempted to explain away this lapse by writing that prosecutors "obtained a court order preventing defense lawyers from delving into [Blandon's] ties with the CIA." This was done under the so-called "grey mail statute," which deters criminals from trying to escape prosecution by falsely claiming intelligence ties. The statute requires defense lawyers to submit allegations of intelligence involvement to the judge before it is admitted into evidence. The defense failed to do that, and prosecutor O'Neale wrote, "The myth of CIA involvement in [Blandon's] selling cocaine to Ross, or to anyone, is utterly fabricated."

    Webb did not tell his readers of a key portion of the government's filing: "The only purpose for asking questions in this regard would be as a clumsy attempt to bullyrag the United States into foregoing prosecution...the simply a gambit."

    Webb's alliance with Ross continued even after the conviction, and in a manner that suggested his motive was in helping the drug kingpin receive a lesser sentence. In July, according to court records, he wrote Ross that "in terms of generating public interest" his articles would be published "as near as possible to a newsworthy event--in this case, your sentencing...." Webb continued, "that way, the San Diego and L. A. papers can use the news angle of the sentencing as a way of getting into the story themselves--without having to give the San Jose Mercury News any credit. (That's the way this business works, unfortunately.)"

    The first of Webb's articles appeared the Sunday before Ross was to be sentenced. Predictably, the judge postponed action pending a further review. In the meanwhile, Ross gave jail cell interviews both to the print and electronic media in which he cast himself as a victim. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times published on Sept. 23, Ross dropped his 1994 claim that he acted as God's agent in selling crack. He said, "Basically, I was selling drugs for the U.S. government. They exploited me and they made me exploit my community." He made the same claim in taped interviews for the Montel Williams and other TV shows.

    Prosecutor O'Neale is understandably scornful of Ross's claimed victimization. In a sentencing memorandum which was filed September 13, he wrote, "If crack cocaine was a holocaust, Ross was the person herding the victims into the showers, and enjoying the fame and fortune immensely. Rather than victim, he was co-conspirator."

    "Cowardice of Convictions"

    Weeks after the first articles ran, Webb tried to back away from the accusation that the CIA was responsible for the drug trafficking, in the sense that the agency knew of and condoned it. "We've never pretended otherwise," Webb told media writer Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post in an interview published October 2. He blamed the media, and especially talk show hosts, for taking the story further than he intended. Webb said that in his frequent talk radio and other interviews, he was trying to wave the media away from the CIA link.

    Webb's disclaimer is nonsense. As Kurtz pointed out, "any- one glancing" at the logo featuring the CIA's seal superimposed over a crack smoker "might be forgiven for thinking the two are connected." Kurtz wrote that Webb's frequent use of the phrase "the CIA's army" suggested a connection. Editorial writers for Webb's own newspaper felt he was writing about CIA; an Aug. 21 editorial bore the headline, "Another CIA Disgrace: Helping the Crack Flow."

    During a taping of the "Montel Williams Show" on Oct. 9, Joe Goulden, Associate Editor of the AIM Report, bearded Webb for his attempted disclaimer. "It's always interesting," Goulden told him, "to find a reporter who really has the cowardice of his convictions." He did not respond. According to interview transcripts posted on the Mercury News's Internet site, Webb continues to claim that a "CIA army" brought crack cocaine to the inner cities. He agreed with one caller's statement that CIA "really stands for Crack in America."

    Ironically, Webb stands to make more money from his bogus stories than the Contras did from any drug profits donated to them by Blandon and Meneses. As noted above, their donations have been reported to be less than $50,000, but Gary Webb has been signed to a movie deal by Touchstone Pictures, a Disney subsidiary. He is also trying for a book deal. According to a prospectus obtained by the Los Angeles Times, Webb foresees being a primary briefing source for Congressional hearings. He also intends to "explore a theory" that the "Contra war was not a real war at all. It was a charade, a smoke provide cover for a massive drug operation" by rogue CIA operatives and others.

    That is reminiscent of the "secret team" charges levelled by the Christie Institute several years ago against a host of retired high-ranking American officers, CIA officials and Contra leaders. A federal judge ruled the suit "frivolous" and imposed sanctions of over a million dolars on the Christic Institute. Webb has cited the Christie Institute as a supporter of his story.

    Iran-Contra Redux

    So what can we anticipate? At a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on October 23, Michael Brumwich, the Justice Department inspector general, mentioned as a credential that he was "one of the first seven lawyers" hired by Iran-Contra special counsel Lawrence Walsh. and that he prosecuted Lt. Colonel Oliver North. Brumwich made plain he itched for an Iran- Contra rematch and that the nine to ten persons already at work on CIA-coke "will not be enough." Fred Hitz, CIA inspector general, now has "11 persons full-time" on the affair and anticipates more. The committee chairman, Senator Arlen Specter (R., Pa.) seemed eager to hold extensive hearings. So the taxpayer expense could be considerable.

    But are these new probes really necessary? Retired Maj. General John Singlaub, a Contra supporter and chief target of the costly, discredited Christie suit, told us, "We've killed that snake repeatedly, yet this crowd won't give up. They keep recycling the same old lie."

    What You Can Do

    Send the enclosed post card, or your own letter, to the San Jose Mercury News and to P. Anthony Ridder, the chairman and CEO of the Knight-Ridder Newspapers, asking for a complete retraction of Gary Webb's series and appropriate disciplinary action against those responsible. A card is enclosed which we suggest you send to the editor of a publication of your choice to help set the record straight. Aim Intern Joanne Bullard helped with research for this report

    AIM REPORT is published twice monthly by Accuracy In Media, Inc. 4455 Connecticut Avenue. N.W., Washington, DC 20008, and is free to AIM members. Membership dues are $25 a year. Dues and contributions to AIM are tax deductible. Corporate membership is $50.


    THIS WILL BE THE FIRST AIM REPORT YOU WILL SEE AFTER THE ELECTION RESULTS are in. We haven't said much about the media coverage of the campaign. The statistics compiled by the Center for Media and Public Affairs show that after Labor Day 54 percent of the references to Bill Clinton on the evening news shows were positive, compared to only 30 percent of the references to Bob Dole. In the last week of the campaign Dole vented his anger toward the New York Times, and justifiably so.

    FOR EXAMPLE, ONE WEEK BEFORE THE ELECTION THERE WAS A BIG STORY ABOUT A decision by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) not to file the final report on its contributions and spending in the current campaign with the FEC before the election. A spokesman for Common Cause described this as a blatant violation of election law requirements. The liberal Washington Post made this its lead story of the day, pointing out that this was the first time in two decades that a political party had so blatantly flouted the law. It looked especially bad coming in the wake of allegations that the Democrats had been taking large illegal contributions from foreigners. The New York Times, in what appeared to be an effort to justify Dole's charge that it was an arm of the DNC, reported this with a tiny wire service story buffed at the bottom of page 20. However, other newspapers and media covered the story like the scandal that it was; and the next day the front-page headlines announced that the DNC had changed its mind--except in The New York Times. It reported the reversal--which never would have happened if other papers had followed its lead on page A18.

    WE COULD CITE MANY SUCH EXAMPLES OF BIAS INFLUENCING CAMPAIGN COVERAGE, and we probably will, but we have to repeat what we said after Bush's defeat in 1992--that the Republicans have been remarkably successful in winning presidential elections in the face of media bias against them for years. Bush in '92 and Dole in '96 accepted their opponent's most important rule of engagement: lay off the issue he feared most--character. The best speech on that issue was made by Ross Perot at the National Press Club on October 24. Dole then borrowed some of Perot's questions, such as, "Where's the outrage?" But he was less effective than Perot in telling voters why they should feel out- raged. The pro-Clinton reporters could not be relied upon to dwell on the scandals that define Clinton's character. The candidates or their surrogates had to do that themselves. If they lose, they can hardly blame the media for not doing what they themselves refused to do.

    JOE GOULDEN, ASSOCIATE EDITOR WHO WROTE THIS REPORT,HAD AN INTERESTING experience doing the Montel Williams TV show. I thought you would like to hear about that from him. So what follows below are the notes from Joe Goulden's cuff. R.I.

    WHEN I ACCEPTED AN INVITATION TO GO ON THE MONTEL WILLIAMS TV SHOW TO discuss the CIA-cocaine story that is the subject of this AIM Report, I knew that I faced a stacked deck of hostile panelists. But it is important to AIM that the "other side of the story" be heard, even on a syndicated daytime TV show that appeals to audiences that are, to put it politely, not deep political thinkers. So I found myself in New York the morning of October 9, in a TV green room chatting with a jovial Montel himself, ready for taping.

    "I'M A REAL CONSERVATIVE," WILLIAMS SAID, "IN FACT, ONE OF THE MOST CONSERVATIVE guys in the business. I started out as a Marine enlisted man and went to the Naval Academy and had more than 20 years in the military." He suggested that he gave little credence to the Mercury News articles, and told me, "I'm counting on you to put these guys in their place."

    BUT ON CAMERA, I DISCOVERED AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT MONTEL. CONTRARY TO what I was told in advance, both by Williams and two of his producers, he had no interest in getting at the truth. Although he cast statements in the form of questions, he left no doubt that he believed the conspiracy story. He said, "If this controversy continues to escalate the way it has, and believe me, it will, this country is going to realize that it's wakeup time." If Williams' viewers realized the scope of the lie given them, perhaps it would be "wakeup time" for his TV show.

    WITH A MIXTURE OF AMUSEMENT AND RAGE, I SAW FIRST-HAND WHY DAYTIME TV talk shows are such an insult to the truth, and how dubious stories are presented as fact. The other five guests, plus Williams, swallowed the CIA-coke yarn, and the audience cheered them on in response to "applause" signals given by associate producers in the studio. One interesting incident did not make it onto camera. When Williams asked how many in the audience had actually read the articles perhaps six or eight of the 75-odd persons present raised their hands.

    WILLIAMS' FIRST GUEST WAS MICHAEL LEVINE, A FORMER AGENT WITH THE DEA, DRUG Enforcement Agency, who has written three books since retirement, and whose memory of nefarious government deeds seems to expand each time he sits down at his typewriter to earn more royalties. The CIA, he told Williams, "is the kingpin, the don" of the drug mafia, and engages in "killing, murdering," when dealing in narcotics. Levine's new book, he said, is so explosive he had to write it as fiction lest he be prosecuted in the many countries where he broke laws as an undercover agent. Later in the show, I told Levine that I knew a Congressman or two and I would be happy to arrange for one of them to hear his story under oath. Levine declined the offer, saying he didn't trust Congress. And he said "absolutely!" when Williams asked if the CIA brought drugs into the U.S. on a regular basis. "Why didn't the CIA bump you off before you came on the Montel Williams Show?" Williams asked. Levine could only smile.

    THE SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS REPORTER, GARY WEBB, SAID HE WAS ABLE TO WRITE the stories "only because some people at the National Archives believed in freedom of information" and gave him the documents that showed "the CIA connection." The only such document mentioned in his three lengthy articles was an FBI report of an interview with a real estate agent who said he rented a house to a former cop who claimed CIA connections; the former officer is now in jail on a cocaine conviction. The episode had nothing whatsoever to do with the claimed "Ricky Ross-CIA" link. Webb also insisted that the two Nicaraguan drug dealers featured in his stories, Blandon and Meneses "were agents of the CIA. This came out in court." In fact, no such evidence was presented, and even Blandon's lawyer says his client never made any such claim.

    FACTS, HOWEVER, DON'T SEEM TO BE IMPORTANT TO EITHER WEBB OR WILLIAMS. At one point Williams maintained that Blandon sold crack cocaine to "Freeway Rick" Ross for "six to eight years," whereas court testimony was that their relationship lasted only a few months. Williams helped shout down any answer from Webb to this question that I asked: Since Ricky Ross started selling crack in 1979, when Blandon still lived in Nicaragua, how could Blandon have "introduced him" to the busi- ness? Webb has since admitted that there is some "confusion" about the chronology of the relationship. He blames it on Blandon's faulty memory.

    ONE OF WEBB'S MAJOR ALLIES IN PUBLICIZING THE STORY HAS BEEN JOE MADISON A member of the NAACP board who hosts a talk show in Washington, D.C. Webb is a frequent guest on the show, and they behave towards one another as if they are old pals. "God bless Gary Webb," Madison intoned. Another guest, Rep. Charles Rangel (D., N.Y.) began by claiming an open mind, then likened what Webb says the CIA did to subjecting the black community to "poison gas." Rangel said, "As far as I am concerned, the CIA is being charged with mass murder."

    THE FIFTH GANG-TACKLER OF THE TRUTH WAS WASHINGTON LAWYER JACK BLUM who in the 1980s was chief counsel for a subcommittee headed by Sen. John Kerry (D., Mass.) which probed drag links between the Contras and the CIA. After years of work, the committee found tenuous fringe connections. Blum contended that the Reagan-Bush Administrations and the CIA hid the truth from him; whining that the White House persuaded the media to discredit witnesses as convicted drug dealers, or worse, and thus not take them seriously. Actually, many of the Kerry-Blum witnesses were just that. And, as the Washington Times noted in an Oct. 25 editorial, Blum and Kerry averted their investigative eyes when they ran across "the famously criminal Bank of Credit and Commerce International" (BCCI). Although BCCI was involved in drug and money-laundering schemes germane to their probe; Kerry-Blum avoided pursuing its ownership of First American Bank in Washington--and the First American chairman, prominent Democrat Clark Clifford.

    MY CONCLUSION: AFTERNOON SOAP OPERAS LAY GREATER CLAIM TO TRUTH THAN does the Montel Williams Show--they are fiction and do not claim otherwise. Williams postures as an "honest conservative," but he kept both his honesty and conservatism well hidden during the hour I spent on his show. He and his producers were not interested in seeing that the facts I introduced were given a reasonable airing. I was there to give the appearance of balance without the substance. J.C.G.

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