HOW THE American people feel about the CIA is important. Spying and clandestine operations are vital to the national security, but they also cause unease in a nation that reveres open government. So when the San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News published a series that strongly implied the CIA was involved in the sale of crack cocaine to help finance Nicaraguan rebels fighting the Sandinistas in the 1980s, the repercussions were nationwide. Especially in the black community, where suspicions about the CIA and the FBI run deep.
After the Mercury News stories appeared last fall, the Congressional Black Caucus led a clamor for an investigation. When the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times ran articles challenging the series, comedian-activist Dick Gregory complained in an article carried in The Sun that this was just cover-up by the "white press" (as though the Mercury News and its white editor, Jerry Ceppos, and the white reporter, Gary Webb, who worked the series, were something else).