Brian Barger was an investigative journalist who edited and reported on Colombian drug cartels, covert operations of the CIA, international terrorism, money laundering, excessive levels of toxins in sea fish and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was among the primary reporters covering the Iran-contra arms-for-hostages scandals of the Reagan administration.

In a journalism career spanning three decades, he worked for the Associated Press, CNN and The Washington Post, among other organizations. He was a restless man who disliked staying long in one place. Early in his career, he was a school bus driver and a garbage collector in suburban Maryland; a bartender in Tokyo; a logging truck driver in Wyoming; and an auto mechanic, taxi driver, carpenter, house painter, short-order cook and motorcycle messenger in Washington, D.C.

For a time, he was a California farmworker and organized protests against low wages and poor working conditions. He also had been an insurance claims adjuster and an activist for political and humanitarian causes. He was arrested several times in protests against the Vietnam War.

In 1999, he took a three-year hiatus from journalism to co-found and direct Casa Amiga, a rape crisis and domestic violence counseling center network in Mexico. This, said his family, was an outgrowth of his friendship with Dianna Ortiz, a Catholic nun and missionary who in 1989 was abducted, raped and tortured by members of the Guatemalan military. She died Feb. 19.

Mr. Barger, a District resident who in recent years has been a full-time volunteer with immigrants’ rights organizations, died Feb. 22 at a hospital in New York. He was 68 and the cause was complications following surgery for pancreatic cancer, said his wife, Tia Duer.

Brian King Barger was born in Washington on June 21, 1952. His father was a Foreign Service officer, whom he accompanied to postings in Indonesia, Mexico and Tokyo. His mother, a volunteer with a retired diplomats’ group, was Argentine, and it was from her he learned to speak Spanish.

He graduated in 1971 from Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School and attended Montgomery College and the University of Maryland.

He began his journalism career in 1979 as a Post news aide and retired in 2008 after seven years as an assistant foreign editor. In between, he was an independent correspondent in Latin America and an off-camera reporter with CBS and ABC News as well as a Washington-based reporter with the AP, United Press International and CNN.

At the AP, Mr. Barger partnered with colleague Robert Parry on the Iran-contra story, conducting extensive and early reporting about drug trafficking by members of the right-wing Nicaraguan force known as the contras, which had U.S. backing and ties to Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North, a member of the National Security Council.

But as Mr. Barger and Parry were examining details of North’s role in the illegal Iran-contra affair, the journalists complained that the bureau chief blocked or delayed running their findings while high-level news agency officials were in discussions with North about securing the release of Terry Anderson, an AP journalist who had been taken hostage during the Lebanon civil war.

At the time, Louis D. Boccardi, president and general manager of AP, denied the allegation that he or others “were somehow editing the AP wire to suit Ollie North.” Mr. Barger soon left for CBS News.

As a foreign desk editor at The Post from 2001 to 2008, Mr. Barger worked on stories connected with the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, national security issues and current events in Latin America and the Middle East.

He shared an Overseas Press Club award, among other professional honors.

He was an amateur photographer who took portrait photographs at weddings.

His marriages to Barbara Myers and Linda Lashendock ended in divorce. In addition to Duer, whom he married in 2006, survivors include a daughter from his first marriage, Karina Barger of Monterey, Calif.; a stepson, Marshall Duer-Balkind of Washington; his mother, Dolly Edwards of Mitchellville, Md.; a sister; and four grandchildren.