Crimes of Mena

There’s some interest in whatever happened to Iran-Contra, including why the Clinton Administration didn’t do any follow up. Rather independently, I arrived at the hypothesis that the corruption that’s evident in Bush/Cheney Washington isn’t necessarily sustained by bribery and/or profit, but rather by the expert exploitation of a sense of guilt, created by people being sucked into a network of secrecy. The keeping of secrets seems to have been developed into a high art that serves, even more effectively than wealth, as a mechanism of control. So, for example, the leadership of Congress has been compromised into NOT looking after the general welfare of the nation by the simple strategem of reading them into the secret machinations of the nation’s intelligence agencies. All it took to cover up torture, kidnapping, rendition and wholesale spying on the American people was the extraction of a pledge of confidentiality from the Gang of Eight. How clever was that? By getting eight people to promise to keep their mouths shut in exchange for letting them in on the gross details, the U.S. government was turned into the biggest criminal enterprise of all time. And backwards Arkansas was there at the start.

I reprint the following in the interest of back-ground information. While that fellow over at the Mad Cow Morning News has been harping on this stuff rather relentlessly, I’m intrigued by the fact that Senator Clinton keeps referring to thirty-five years of her experience, which would seem to take us back to the time when the Mena enterprise was in full flower.

This article was originally written for publication in the Washington Post.

After clearing the legal department for inaccurate statements and scheduled

for press, Washington Post Managing Editor Bob Kaiser killed the article

without explanation. This story is an investigative report into events that

haunt the activities of three presidents: Reagan, Bush, and Clinton.

Included beneath the following article is Arkansas Drug Exposé Misses The

Post by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, The London Sunday Telegraph, 1/29/95.


The Crimes of Mena

by Sally Denton and Roger Morris

July 1995


Barry Seal — gunrunner, drug trafficker, and covert C.I.A.

operative extraordinaire — is hardly a familiar name in American

politics. But nine years after he was murdered in a hail of

bullets by Medellin cartel hit men outside a Salvation Army

shelter in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, he has come back to haunt the

reputations of three American presidents.

Seal’s legacy includes more than 2,000 newly discovered documents

that now verify and quantify much of what previously had been only

suspicion, conjecture, and legend. The documents confirm that from

1981 to his brutal death in 1986, Barry Seal carried on one of the

most lucrative, extensive, and brazen operations in the history of

the international drug trade, and that he did it with the evident

complicity, if not collusion, of elements of the United States

government, apparently with the acquiescence of Ronald Reagan’s

administration, impunity from any subsequent exposure by George

Bush’s administration, and under the usually acute political nose

of then Arkansas governor Bill Clinton.

The newly unearthed papers show the real Seal as far more

impressive and well-connected than the character played by Dennis

Hopper in a made-for-TV movie some years ago, loosely based on the

smuggler’s life. The film portrayed the pudgy pilot as a hapless

victim, caught in a cross fire between bungling but benign

government agencies and Latin drug lords. The truth sprinkled

through the documents is a richer — and altogether more sinister

— matter of national and individual corruption. It is a tale of

massive, socially devastating crime, of what seems to have been an

official cover-up to match, and, not least, of the strange

reluctance of so-called mainstream American journalism to come to

grips with the phenomenon and its ominous implications — even

when the documentary evidence had appeared.

The trail winds back to another slightly bruited but obscure name

— a small place in western Arkansas called Mena.

Of the many stories emerging from the Arkansas of the 1980s that

was crucible to the Clinton presidency, none has been more elusive

than the charges surrounding Mena. Nestled in the dense pine and

hardwood forests of the Oachita Mountains, some 160 miles west of

Little Rock, once thought a refuge for nineteenth-century border

outlaws and even a hotbed of Depression-era anarchists, the tiny

town has been the locale for persistent reports of drug smuggling,

gunrunning, and money laundering tracing to the early eighties,

when Seal based his aircraft at Mena’s Intermountain Regional


From first accounts circulating locally in Arkansas, the story

surfaced nationally as early as 1989 in a Penthouse article called

“Snowbound,” written by the investigative reporter John Cummings,

and in a Jack Anderson column, but was never advanced at the time

by other media. Few reporters covering Clinton in the 1992

campaign missed hearing at least something about Mena. But it was

obviously a serious and demanding subject — the specter of vast

drug smuggling with CIA involvement — and none of the major media

pursued it seriously During 1992, the story was kept alive by

Sarah McClendon, The Nation, and The Village Voice.

Then, after Clinton became president, Mena began to reappear. Over

the past year, CBS News and The Wall Street Journal have reported

the original, unquieted charges surrounding Mena, including the

shadow of some CIA (or “national security”) involvement in the gun

and drug traffic, and the apparent failure of then governor

Clinton to pursue evidence of such international crime so close to


“Seal was smuggling drugs and kept his planes at Mena,” The Wall

Street Journal reported in 1994. “He also acted as an agent for

the DEA In one of these missions, he flew the plane that produced

photographs of Sandinistas loading drugs in Nicaragua. He was

killed by a drug gang [Medellin cartel hit men] in Baton Rouge.

The cargo plane he flew was the same one later flown by Eugene

Hasenfus when he was shot down over Nicaragua with a load of

contra supplies.

In a mix of wild rumor and random fact, Mena has also been a topic

of ubiquitous anti-Clinton diatribes circulated by right-wing

extremists — an irony in that the Mena operation was the apparent

brainchild of the two previous and Republican administrations.

Still, most of the larger American media have continued to ignore,

if not ridicule, the Mena accusations. Finding no conspiracy in

the Oachitas last July, a Washington Post reporter typically

scoffed at the “alleged dark deeds,” contrasting Mena with an

image as “Clandestination, Arkansas . . . Cloak and Dagger Capital

of America.” Noting that The New York Times had “mentioned Mena

primarily as the headquarters of the American Rock Garden

Society,” the Columbia Journalism Review in a recent issue

dismissed “the conspiracy theories” as of “dubious relevance.”

A former Little Rock businessman, Terry Reed, has coauthored with

John Cummings a highly controversial book, Compromised: Clinton,

Bush, and the C.lA., which describes a number of covert activities

around Mena, including a CIA operation to train pilots and troops

for the Nicaraguan Contras, and the collusion of local officials.

Both the book and its authors were greeted with derision.

Now, however, a new mass of documentary evidence has come to light

regarding just such “dark deeds” — previously private and secret

records that substantiate as never before some of the worst and

most portentous suspicions about what went on at Mena, Arkansas, a

decade ago.

Given the scope and implications of the Mena story, it may be easy

to understand the media’s initial skepticism and reluctance. But

it was never so easy to dismiss the testimony arid suspicions of

some of those close to the matter: Internal Revenue Service Agent

Bill Duncan, Arkansas State Police investigator Russell Welch,

Arkansas Attorney General J. Winston Bryant, Congressman Bill

Alexander, and various other local law-enforcement officials and


All of these people were convinced by the late eighties that there

existed what Bryant termed “credible evidence” of the most serious

criminal activity involving Mena between 1981 and 1986. They also

believed that the crimes were committed with the acquiescence, if

not the complicity, of elements of the US government. But they

couldn’t seem to get the national media to pay attention.

During the 1992 campaign, outside advisers and aides urged former

California governor Jerry Brown to raise the Mena issue against

Clinton — at least to ask why the Arkansas governor had not done

more about such serious international crime so close to home. But

Brown, too, backed away from the subject. “I’ll raise it if the

major media break it first,” he told aides. “The media will do it,

Governor,” one of them replied in frustration, “if only you’ll

raise it.”

Mena’s obscure airport was thought by the IRS, the FBI, US

Customs, and the Arkansas State Police to be a base for Adler

Berriman “Barry” Seal, a self-confessed, convicted smuggler whose

operations had been linked to the intelligence community. Duncan

and Welch both spent years building cases against Seal and others

for drug smuggling and money laundering around Mena, only to see

their own law-enforcement careers damaged in the process.

What evidence they gathered, they have said in testimony and other

public statements, was not sufficiently pursued by the then US

attorney for the region, J. Michael Fitzhugh, or by the IRS,

Arkansas State Police, and other agencies. Duncan, testifying

before the joint investigation by the Arkansas state attorney

general’s office and the United States Congress in June 1991, said

that 29 federal indictments drafted in a Mena-based

money-laundering scheme had gone unexplored. Fitzhugh, responding

at the time to Duncan’s charges, said, “This office has not slowed

up any investigation . . . [and] has never been under any pressure

in any investigation.”

By 1992, to Duncan’s and Welch’s mounting dismay, several other

official inquiries into the alleged Mena connection were similarly

ineffectual or were stifled altogether, furthering their

suspicions of government collusion and cover-up. In his testimony

before Congress, Duncan said the IRS “withdrew support for the

operations” and further directed him to “withhold information from

Congress and perjure myself.”

Duncan later testified that he had never before experienced

“anything remotely akin to this type of interference. . . . Alarms

were going off,” he continued, “and as soon as Mr. Fitzhugh got

involved, he was more aggressive in not allowing the subpoenas and

in interfering in the investigative process.”

State policeman Russell Welch felt he was “probably the most

knowledgeable person” regarding the activities at Mena, yet he was

not initially subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury. Welch

testified later that the only reason he was ultimately subpoenaed

at all was because one of the grand jurors was from Mena and “told

the others that if they wanted to know something about the Mena

airport, they ought to ask that guy [Welch] out there in the


State Attorney General Bryant, in a 1991 letter to the office of

Lawrence Walsh, the independent counsel in the Iran-Contra

investigation, wondered “why no one was prosecuted in Arkansas

despite a mountain of evidence that Seal was using Arkansas as his

principle staging area during the years 1982 through 1985.”

What actually went on in the woods of western Arkansas? The

question is still relevant for what it may reveal about certain

government operations during the time that Reagan and Bush were in

the White House and Clinton was governor of Arkansas.

In a mass of startling new documentation — the more than 2,000

papers gathered by the authors from private and law-enforcement

sources in a year-long nationwide search — answers are found and

serious questions are posed.

These newly unearthed documents — the veritable private papers of

Barry Seal — substantiate at least part of what went on at Mena.

What might be called the Seal archive dates back to 1981, when

Seal began his operations at the Intermountain Regional Airport in

Mena. The archive, all of it now in our possession, continues

beyond February 1986, when Seal was murdered by Colombian

assassins after he had testified in federal court in Las Vegas,

Fort Lauderdale, and Miami for the US government against leaders

of the Medellin drug cartel.

The papers include such seemingly innocuous material as Seal’s

bank and telephone records; negotiable instruments, promissory

notes, and invoices; personal correspondence address and

appointment books; bills of sale for aircraft and boats; aircraft

registration, and modification work orders.

In addition, the archive also contains personal diaries;

handwritten to-do lists and other private notes; secretly

tape-recorded conversations; and cryptographic keys and legends

for codes used in the Seal operation.

Finally, there are extensive official records: federal

investigative and surveillance reports, accounting assessments by

the IRS and the DEA, and court proceedings not previously reported

in the press — testimony as well as confidential pre-sentencing

memoranda in federal narcotics-trafficking trials in Florida and

Nevada — numerous depositions, and other sworn statements.

The archive paints a vivid portrait not only of a major criminal

conspiracy around Mena, but also of the unmistakable shadow of

government complicity. Among the new revelations:

Mena, from 1981 to 1985, was indeed one of the centers for

international smuggling traffic. According to official IRS and DEA

calculations, sworn court testimony, and other corroborative

records, the traffic amounted to thousands of kilos of cocaine and

heroin and literally hundreds of millions of dollars in drug

profits. According to a 1986 letter from the Louisiana attorney

general to then US attorney general Edwin Meese, Seal “smuggled

between $3 billion and $5 billion of drugs into the US”

Seal himself spent considerable sums to land, base, maintain, and

specially equip or refit his aircraft for smuggling. According to

personal and business records, he had extensive associations at

Mena and in Little Rock, and was in nearly constant telephone

contact with Mena when he was not there himself. Phone records

indicate Seal made repeated calls to Mena the day before his

murder. This was long after Seal, according to his own testimony,

was working as an $800,000-a-year informant for the federal


A former member of the Army Special Forces, Seal had ties to the

Central Intelligence Agency dating to the early 1970s. He had

confided to relatives and others, according to their sworn

statements, that he was a CIA operative before and during the

period when he established his operations at Mena. In one

statement to Louisiana State Police, a Seal relative said, “Barry

was into gunrunning and drug smuggling in Central and South

America . . . and he had done some time in El Salvadore [sic].”

Another then added, “lt was true, but at the time Barry was

working for the CIA.”

In a posthumous jeopardy-assessment case against Seal — also

documented in the archive — the IRS determined that money earned

by Seal between 1984 and 1986 was not illegal because of his

“CIA-DEA employment.” The only public official acknowledgment of

Seal’s relationship to the CIA has been in court and congressional

testimony, and in various published accounts describing the CIA’s

installation of cameras in Seal’s C-123K transport plane, used in

a highly celebrated 1984 sting operation against the Sandinista

regime in Nicaragua.

Robert Joura, the assistant special agent in charge of the DEA’s

Houston office and the agent who coordinated Seal’s undercover

work, told The Washington Post last year that Seal was enlisted by

the CIA for one sensitive mission — providing photographic

evidence that the Sandinistas were letting cocaine from Colombia

move through Nicaragua. A spokesman for then Senate candidate

Oliver North told The Post that North had been kept aware of

Seal’s work through “intelligence sources.”

Federal Aviation Administration registration records contained in

the archive confirm that aircraft identified by federal and state

narcotics agents as in the Seal smuggling operation were

previously owned by Air America, Inc., widely reported to have

been a CIA proprietary company. Emile Camp, one of Seal’s pilots

and a witness to some of his most significant dealings, was killed

on a mountainside near Mena in 1985 in the unexplained crash of

one of those planes that had once belonged to Air America.

According to still other Seal records, at least some of the

aircraft in his smuggling fleet, which included a Lear jet,

helicopters, and former US military transports, were also

outfitted with avionics and other equipment by yet another company

in turn linked to Air America.

Among the aircraft flown in and out of Mena was Seal’s C-123K

cargo plane, christened Fat Lady. The records show that Fat Lady,

serial number 54-0679, was sold by Seal months before his death.

According to other files, the plane soon found its way to a

phantom company of what became known in the Iran-Contra scandal as

“the Enterprise,” the CIA-related secret entity managed by Oliver

North and others to smuggle illegal weapons to the Nicaraguan

Contra rebels. According to former DEA agent Celerino Castillo and

others, the aircraft was allegedly involved in a return traffic in

cocaine, profits from which were then used to finance more

clandestine gunrunning.

F.A.A. records show that in October 1986, the same Fat Lady was

shot down over Nicaragua with a load of arms destined for the

Contras. Documents found on board the aircraft and seized by the

Sandinistas included logs linking the plane with Area 51 — the

nation’s top-secret nuclear-weapons facility at the Nevada Test

Site. The doomed aircraft was co-piloted by Wallace Blaine “Buzz”

Sawyer, a native of western Arkansas, who died in the crash. The

admissions of the surviving crew member, Eugene Hasenfus, began a

public unraveling of the Iran-Contra episode.

An Arkansas gun manufacturer testified in 1993 in federal court in

Fayetteville that the CIA contracted with him to build 250

automatic pistols for the Mena operation. William Holmes testified

that he had been introduced to Seal in Mena by a CIA operative,

and that he then sold weapons to Seal. Even though he was given a

Department of Defense purchase order for guns fitted with

silencers, Holmes testified that he was never paid the $140,000

the government owed him. “After the Hasenfus plane was shot down,”

Holmes said, “you couldn’t find a soul around Mena.”

Meanwhile, there was still more evidence that Seal’s massive

smuggling operation based in Arkansas had been part of a CIA

operation, and that the crimes were continuing well after Seal’s

murder. In 1991 sworn testimony to both Congressman Alexander and

Attorney General Bryant, state police investigator Welch recorded

that in 1987 he had documented “new activity at the [Mena] airport

with the appearance of . . . an Australian business [a company

linked with the CIA], and C-130s had appeared. . . .”

At the same time, according to Welch, two FBI agents officially

informed him that the CIA “had something going on at the Mena

Airport involving Southern Air Transport [another company linked

with the CIA] . . . and they didn’t want us [the Arkansas State

Police] to screw it up like we had the last one.”

The hundreds of millions in profits generated by the Seal

trafficking via Mena and other outposts resulted in extraordinary

banking and business practices in apparent efforts to launder or

disperse the vast amounts of illicit money in Arkansas and

elsewhere. Seal’s financial records show from the early eighties,

for example, instances of daily deposits of $50,000 or more, and

extensive use of an offshore foreign bank in the Caribbean, as

well as financial institutions in Arkansas and Florida.

According to IRS criminal investigator Duncan, secretaries at the

Mena Airport told him that when Seal flew into Mena, “there would

be stacks of cash to be taken to the bank and laundered.” One

secretary told him that she was ordered to obtain numerous

cashier’s checks, each in an amount just under $10,000, at various

banks in Mena and surrounding communities, to avoid filing the

federal Currency Transaction Reports required for all bank

transactions that exceed that limit.

Bank tellers testified before a federal grand jury that in

November 1982, a Mena airport employee carried a suitcase

containing more than $70,000 into a bank. “The bank officer went

down the teller lines handing out the stacks of $1,000 bills and

got the cashier’s checks.”

Law-enforcement sources confirmed that hundreds of thousands of

dollars were laundered from 1981 to 1983 just in a few small banks

near Mena, and that millions more from Seal’s operation were

laundered elsewhere in Arkansas and the nation.

Spanish-language documents in Seal’s possession at the time of his

murder also indicate that he had accounts throughout Central

America and was planning to set up his own bank in the Caribbean.

Additionally, Seal’s files suggest a grandiose scheme for building

an empire. Papers in his office at the time of his death include

references to dozens of companiesQall of which had names that

began with Royale. Among them: Royale Sports, Royale Television

Network, Royale Liquors, Royale Casino, S.A., Royale

Pharmaceuticals, Royale Arabians, Royale Seafood, Royale Security,

Royale Resorts . . . and on and on.

Seal was scarcely alone in his extensive smuggling operation based

in Mena from 1981 to 1986, commonly described in both federal and

state law-enforcement files as one of the largest drug-trafficking

operations in the United States at the time, if not in the history

of the drug trade. Documents show Seal confiding on one occasion

that he was “only the transport,” pointing to an extensive network

of narcotics distribution and finance in Arkansas and other

states. After drugs were smuggled across the border, the duffel

bags of cocaine would be retrieved by helicopters and dropped onto

flatbed trucks destined for various American cities.

In recognition of Seal’s significance in the drug trade,

government prosecutors made him their chief witness in various

cases, including a 1985 Miami trial in absentia of Medellln drug

lords; in another 1985 trial of what federal officials regarded as

the largest narcotics-trafficking case to date in Las Vegas; and

in still a third prosecution of corrupt officials in the Turks and

Caicos Islands. At the same time, court records and other

documents reveal a studied indifference by government prosecutors

to Seal’s earlier and ongoing operations at Mena.

In the end, the Seal documents are vindication for dedicated

officials in Arkansas like agents Duncan and Welch and local

citizens’ groups like the Arkansas Committee, whose own evidence

and charges take on new gravity — and also for The Nation, The

Village Voice, the Association of National Security Alumni, the

venerable Washington journalists Sarah McClendon and Jack

Anderson, Arkansas. reporters Rodney Bowers and Mara Leveritt, and

others who kept an all-too-authentic story alive amid wider


But now the larger implications of the newly exposed evidence seem

as disturbing as the criminal enormity it silhouettes. Like his

modern freebooter’s life, Seal’s documents leave the political and

legal landscape littered with stark questions.

What, for example, happened to some nine different official

investigations into Mena after 1987, from allegedly compromised

federal grand juries to congressional inquiries suppressed by the

National Security Council in 1988 under Ronald Reagan to still

later Justice Department inaction under George Bush?

Officials repeatedly invoked national security to quash most of

the investigations. Court documents do show clearly that the CIA

and the DEA employed Seal during 1984 and 1985 for the Reagan

administration’s celebrated sting attempt to implicate the

Nicaraguan Sandinista regime in cocaine trafficking.

According to a December 1988 Senate Foreign Relations Committee

report, “cases were dropped. The apparent reason was that the

prosecution might have revealed national-security information,

even though all of the crimes which were the focus of the

investigation occurred before Seal became a federal informant.”

Tax records show that, having assessed Seal posthumously for some

$86 million in back taxes on his earnings from Mena and elsewhere

between 1981 and 1983, even the IRS forgave the taxes on hundreds

of millions in known drug and gun profits over the ensuing

two-year period when Seal was officially admitted to be employed

by the government.

To follow the IRS Iogic, what of the years, crimes, and profits at

Mena in the early eighties, before Barry Seal became an

acknowledged federal operative, as well as the subsequently

reported drug-trafficking activities at Mena even after his murder

— crimes far removed from his admitted cooperation as government

informant and witness?

“Joe [name deleted] works for Seal and cannot be touched because

Seal works for the CIA,” a Customs official said in an Arkansas

investigation into drug trafficking during the early eighties. “A

CIA or DEA operation is taking place at the Mena airport,” an FBI

telex advised the Arkansas State Police in August 1987, 18 months

after Seal’s murder. Welch later testified that a Customs agent

told him, “Look, we’ve been told not to touch anything that has

Barry Seal’s name on it, just to let it go.”

The London Sunday Telegraph recently reported new evidence,

including a secret code number, that Seal was also working as an

operative of the Defense Intelligence Agency during the period of

the gunrunning and drug smuggling.

Perhaps most telling is what is so visibly missing from the

voluminous files. In thousands of pages reflecting a man of

meticulous organization and plan- ning, Barry Seal seems to have

felt singularly and utterly secure — if not somehow invulnerable

— at least in the ceaseless air transport and delivery into the

United States of tons of cocaine for more than five years. In a

1986 letter to the DEA, the commander and deputy commander of

narcotics for the Louisiana State Police say that Seal “was being

given apparent free rein to import drugs in conjunction with DEA

investigations with so little restraint and control on his actions

as to allow him the opportunity to import drugs for himself should

he have been so disposed.”

Seal’s personal videotapes, in the authors’ possession, show one

scene in which he used US Army paratroop equipment, as well as

militarylike precision, in his drug-transporting operation. Then,

in the middle of the afternoon after a number of dry runs, one of

his airplanes dropped a load of several duffel bags attached to a

parachute. Within seconds, the cargo sitting on the remote grass

landing strip was retrieved by Seal and loaded onto a helicopter

that had followed the low-flying aircraft. “This is the first

daylight cocaine drop in the history of the state of Louisiana,”

Seal narrates on the tape. If the duffel bags seen in the

smuggler’s home movies were filled with cocaine — as Seal himself

states on tape — that single load would have been worth hundreds

of millions of dollars.

Perhaps the videos were not of an actual cocaine drop, but merely

the drug trafficker’s training video for his smuggling

organization, or even a test maneuver. Regardless, the films show

a remarkable, fearless invincibility. Barry Seal was not expecting


His most personal papers show him all but unconcerned about the

very flights and drops that would indeed have been protected or

“fixed,” according to law-enforcement sources, by the collusion of

US intelligence.

In an interview with agent Duncan, Seal brazenly “admitted that he

had been a drug smuggler.”

If the Seal documents show anything, an attentive reader might

conclude, it is that ominous implication of some official

sanction. Over the entire episode looms the unmistakable shape of

government collaboration in vast drug trafficking and gunrunning,

and in a decade-long cover-up of criminality.

Government investigators apparently had no doubt about the

magnitude of those crimes. According to Customs sources, Seal’s

operations at Mena and other bases were involved in the export of

guns to Bolivia, Argentina, Peru, and Brazil, as well as to the

Contras, and the importation of cocaine from Colombia to be sold

in New York, Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, and other cities, as

well as in Arkansas itself.

Duncan and his colleagues knew that Seal’s modus operandi included

dumping most of the drugs in other southern states, so that what

Arkansas agents witnessed in Mena was but a tiny fragment of an

operation staggering in its magnitude. Yet none of the putative

inquiries seems to have made a serious effort to gather even a

fraction of the available Seal documents now assembled and studied

by the authors.

Finally, of course, there are somber questions about then governor

Clinton’s own role vis-a-vis the crimes of Mena.

Clinton has acknowledged learning officially about Mena only in

April 1988, though a state police investigation had been in

progress for several years. As the state’s chief executive,

Clinton often claimed to be fully abreast of such inquiries. In

his one public statement on the matter as governor, in September

1991 he spoke of that investigation finding “linkages to the

federal government,” and “all kinds of questions about whether he

[Seal] had any links to the CIA . . . and if that backed into the

Iran-Contra deal.”

But then Clinton did not offer further support for any inquiry,

“despite the fact,” as Bill Plante and Michael Singer of CBS News

have written, “that a Republican administration was apparently

sponsoring a Contra-aid operation in his state and protecting a

smuggling ring that flew tons of cocaine through Arkansas.”

As recently as March 1995, Arkansas state trooper Larry Patterson

testified under oath, according to The London Sunday Telegraph,

that he and other officers “discussed repeatedly in Clinton’s

presence” the “large quantities of drugs being flown into the Mena

airport, large quantities of money, large quantities of guns,”

indicating that Clinton may have known much more about Seal’s

activities than he has admitted.

Moreover, what of the hundreds of millions generated by Seal’s

Mena contraband? The Seal records reveal his dealings with at

least one major Little Rock bank. How much drug money from him or

his associates made its way into criminal laundering in Arkansas’s

notoriously freewheeling financial institutions and bond houses,

some of which are reportedly under investigation by the Whitewater

special prosecutor for just such large, unaccountable infusions of

cash and unexplained transactions?

“The state offers an enticing climate for traffickers,” IRS agents

had concluded by the end of the eighties, documenting a “major

increase” in the amount of large cash and bank transactions in

Arkansas after 1985, despite a struggling local economy.

Meanwhile, prominent backers of Clinton’s over the same years —

including bond broker and convicted drug dealer Dan Lasater and

chicken tycoon Don Tyson — have themselves been subjects of

extensive investigative and surveillance files by the DEA or the

FBI similar to those relating to Seal, including allegations of

illegal drug activity that Tyson has recently acknowledged

publicly and denounced as “totally false.” “This may be the first

president in history with such close buddies who have NADDIS

numbers,” says one concerned law-enforcement official, referring

to the Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Intelligence System numbers

assigned those under protracted investigation for possible drug


The Seal documents are still more proof that for Clinton, the

Arkansas of the eighties and the company he kept there will not

soon disappear as a political or even constitutional liability.

“I’ve always felt we never got the whole story there,” Clinton

said in 1991.

Indeed. But as president of the United States, he need no longer

wonder — and neither should the nation. On the basis of the Seal

documents (copies of which are being given to the Whitewater

special prosecutor in any case), the president should ask

immediately for a full report on the matter from the CIA, the DEA,

the FBI, the Justice Department, and other relevant agencies of

his own administration — including the long-buried evidence

gathered by IRS agent Duncan and Arkansas state police

investigator Welch. President Clinton should also offer full

executive-branch cooperation with a reopened congressional

inquiry, and expose the subject fully for what it says of both the

American past and future.

Seal saw himself as a patriot to the end. He had dictated his own

epitaph for his grave in Baton Rouge: “A rebel adventurer the

likes of whom in previous days made America great.” In a sense his

documents may now render that claim less ironic than it seems.

The tons of drugs that Seal and his associates brought into the

country, officials agree, affected tens of thousands of lives at

the least, and exacted an incalculable toll on American society.

And for the three presidents, the enduring questions of political

scandal are once again apt: What did they know about Mena? When

did they know it? Why didn’t they do anything to stop it?

The crimes of Mena were real. That much is now documented beyond

doubt. The only remaining issues are how far they extended, and

who was responsible.


Arkansas Drug Exposé Misses The Post

by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in Washington

29 January 1995

The London Sunday Telegraph

It might almost be called The Greatest Story Never Told. The

article was typeset and scheduled to run in today’s edition of The

Washington Post.

It had the enthusiastic backing of the editors and staff of the

Sunday Outlook section, where it was to appear after eleven weeks

of soul-searching and debate.

Lawyers had gone through the text line by line. Supporting

documents had been examined with meticulous care. The artwork and

illustrations had been completed. The contract with the authors

had been signed. Leonard Downie, the executive editor of the

newspaper, had given his final assent.

But on Thursday morning the piece was cancelled. It had been

delayed before — so often, in fact, that its non-appearance was

becoming the talk of Washington — but this time the authors were

convinced that the story was doomed and would never make it into

the pages of what is arguably the world’s most powerful political

newspaper. They have withdrawn it in disgust, accusing the Post of

a cover-up of the biggest scandal in American history.

In stark contrast, the managing editor, Robert Kaiser, left a

message on my answering machine saying that there was really

nothing to “this non-existent story”. In a subsequent

conversation, he dismissed the article as a reprise of rumours and

allegations. “I am confident that it doesn’t have any great new

revelations,” he said.

Others are less confident. A copy of the article passed to The

Sunday Telegraph — not, it should be stressed, by its authors —

appears to be absolutely explosive.

Based on an archive of more than 2,000 documents, it says that

western Arkansas was a centre of international drug smuggling in

the early 1980s — perhaps even the headquarters of the biggest

drug trafficking operation in history. It asks whether hundreds of

millions of dollars in profits made their way “into criminal

laundering in Arkansas’s notoriously free-wheeling financial

institutions and bond houses.”

The activities were mixed up with a US intelligence operation at

the Mena airport in Arkansas that was smuggling weapons to the

Nicaraguan Contras.

Bill Clinton is not specifically accused of involvement, but he

was Governor of Arkansas at the time. The piece also notes that

some of his prominent backers had been the subject of extensive

investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the FBI,

and had been assigned files in NADDIS — the Narcotics & Dangerous

Drugs Intelligence System.

The article makes clear that the alleged scandal is not confined

to the activities of the Arkansas political machine and Mr.

Clinton. It embraces the highest levels of the federal government

over several years.

“For three Presidents of both parties — Messrs. Reagan, Bush and

Clinton — the old enduring questions of political scandal are

once again apt,” the article concludes. “What did they know about

Mena? When did they know it? Why didn’t they do anything to stop


It is clear that The Washington Post took the article extremely

seriously. It was to be run at full length — roughly 4,000 words,

taking up several pages in an almost unprecedented spread across

the Sunday Outlook section.

The authors, Dr. Roger Morris and Sally Denton, were told that

they were being offered the highest fee ever paid for a

contribution to Outlook. They are veteran investigators with

established reputations. Morris worked for the National Security

Council staff at the White House during the Johnson and Nixon

Administrations. He has taught at Harvard and has written a series

of acclaimed books on foreign policy.

Denton is the former head of news agency UPI’s special

investigative unit, and is the author of the Bluegrass Conspiracy,

which exposed the involvement of Kentucky political and law

enforcement figures in an international arms and drug smuggling


Their research is concentrated on the activities of Barry Seal, a

legendary smuggler who operated from a company called Rich

Mountain Aviation in the Ouachita Mountains west of Little Rock.

They have his bank and telephone records, invoices, appointment

books, handwritten notes, personal diaries and secretly-recorded

conversations, as well as extensive police records and

surveillance reports.

Among other allegations they make are:

* Seal was using his fleet of aircraft to export weapons to

Bolivia, Argentina and Brazil in addition to the Nicaraguan


* The planes were carrying cocaine back up to Arkansas on the

return journey for sale in New York, Chicago, Detroit, St.

Louis and other cities.

* Seal had ties to the CIA and felt that he could smuggle with


* Nine separate attempts to investigate Mena, by both state and

federal authorities, were stymied.

“Over the entire episode looms the unmistakable dark shape of US

government complicity in vast drug trafficking and gun-running,”

the article says.

The broad picture is not new to readers of The Sunday Telegraph,

which published a story making some of the same points on October

9th last year. [“Smugglers Linked to Contra Arms Deals,” by

Evans-Pritchard]. The Wall Street Journal has also done original

reporting on the subject.

Morris and Denton have added fresh evidence but the real political

importance of the piece is the fact that it was going to run in

The Washington Post. The Post still sets the agenda in Washington

and guides many US press and TV reporters on what they are

supposed to think.

Up to now, the Post has conducted no more than desultory

investigation of the Mena affair and its reporters have

persistently treated it as a ludicrous conspiracy theory.

The treatment of the article by Morris and Denton will fuel claims

from both Left and Right that The Washington Post is engaged in

active suppression of the news to protect either Clinton or the

CIA or both.

“It’s down to naked politics now,” Morris told The Sunday

Telegraph. “We’ve jumped through every hoop. We’ve given them

everything they’ve asked for. They can’t say the story’s not

credible now.”

In the end the Mena story is going to come out, with the courts

doing the work of the press. A lawsuit in Arkasas is being used to

determine the role of both Clinton and the US federal government

in dirty tricks linked to Mena.

The case has already reached a crucial phase. A high-powered team

of lawyers has issued subpoenas to key witnesses who will be

compelled to testify under oath. Sworn depositions will rain down

like confetti over the next few months.

And if the great American newspapers do not want to cover it, the

radio talk shows certainly will.

Copyright © 1995 Penthouse

Copyright © 1995 London Sunday Telegraph

Reprinted for Fair Use Only. (hypertext) (text only) (print ready)