By David P Beiter

Date:     Tue Jul 18, 1995  2:21 pm  CST
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"- Ms.Freddi  .A.R.."

This is the story that couldn't be suppressed.  An investigative report
into a scandal that haunts the reputations of three presidents --
Reagan, Bush, and Clinton.


Article by Sally Denton and Roger Morris


July, 1995


The initial suppression of the Seal-archive story created a small tidal
wave that surged along the internet, gave right-wing radio another
conspiracy to caress, and made headlines from London to San Francisco.

After 11 weeks of line-by-line fact-checking, editing, and legal
vetting, after the text had been laid out in final type, photos and
artwork arrayed, contracts signed, and publication date fixed, at the
last moment -- on January 26, 1995 -- *Washington Post* Managing Editor
Robert Kaiser had put one more nervous hold on the article you now see
in *Penthouse*.  We pulled the piece in dismay and disgust.  Even the
*Post's* own ombudsman acknowledged "the uproar" over what she called
"the story of the hour."

For us as authors, personally and intellectually, the de facto
suppression and resulting sensation were at best a mixed affair.  A
little like Henry Miller's *Tropic* titles, banned in Boston, our
article was, ironically, receiving more attention unprinted that it
might have drawn had it appeared as scheduled.  Yet in their inevitable
self-justification, *Post* editors were also impugning us as
journalists, and the still-invisible piece was inevitably caught up in
wild speculation or anti-Clinton mania that in many ways obscured the
deeper, wider importance of what we had reported.

This was, after all, the thoroughly documented story of an enormous
crime -- of billions of dollars in gunrunning and drug smuggling done
with the apparent collusion and cover-up of the U.S. government.  It
raised ominous questions not only about Bill Clinton, but about
presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush as well -- not simply a single
set of scoundrels, but a far larger culture of official lawlessness.
And behind the sorry episode at *The Washington Post* was something
nearly as sinister -- the tragic inability or refusal of a major media
institution to confront that malignant dark side of American life and
governance, even when presented with unprecedented evidence.

It had all begun almost by accident.  As a member of the Association of
National Security Alumni, a group of onetime CIA, White House, and other
officials devoted to reform in intelligence and foreign policy, Roger
Morris had first read about Mena in the organization's newsletter,
*Unclassified*, where an article early in the 1992 campaign summarized
the fragmentary, largely undocumented accounts of Barry Seal's operation
in western Arkansas in the eighties.  By the spring of 1993, Morris had
started a book on Bill and Hillary Clinton, including their Arkansas
background, and had begun to gather a thick file on Mena.  Trips and
literally dozens of phone calls back and forth to Arkansas added
significantly to the sources -- many of them sworn, on the record, and
previously unreported.

Still, the sheer detail and exact magnitude of the smuggling and money
laundering lacked hard evidence.  With the exception of a lone account
by reporter Bill Plante with producer Michael Singer on the CBS evening
news, and two *Wall Street Journal* editorial-page feature pieces by
Micah Morrison -- all in 1994, and drawing mainly on known sources and
accounts -- the story remained a silhouette, and largely on the
disdained margin of American journalism.  Most major papers and networks
ignored the scandal.  A few, like *Time* or *The Post* itself, had
written about it only to ridicule the accusations.

Meanwhile, in summer 1993, Morris shared his bulging Mena files with a
close friend and colleague, Sally Denton, whose book on drugs and
political corruption in Kentucky, *The Bluegrass Conspiracy*, was seen
by many investigative reporters as a small classic on its kindred

Instantly recognizing the gravity of the material, familiar from her own
experience with the censure or aversion of the general media to such
reporting, Denton instantly offered to pursue the story herself while
Morris concentrated on other aspects of his book.  Over the next year,
Denton scoured her considerable law-enforcement and underworld sources
throughout the nation, calling in or sending packages of an ever-growing
mass of new evidence.  By late summer 1994, what we called the Seal
archive was mostly gathered -- more than 2,000 documents, from the
smallest receipt to whole volumes of investigation, that left no doubt
about at least the seminal crimes in Mena.

Last autumn, we first submitted a brief op-ed version of the piece to
*The New York Times*, which promptly turned it down.  This was
essentially a *Wall Street Journal* subject that *The Times* had not
pursued as reportage, op-ed editor Michael Levitas told Morris.  While
they had no reason to doubt the documentation or the import of the
story, the great gray *Times*, for now, would pass.

Without hesitation, we went next to *The Washington Post*, obviously
looking for much the same political impact and mainstream authority.
Less than an hour after we had faxed a copy to the *Post's Outlook*
section, Deputy Editor Jeffrey Frank called back with warm acceptance
and support.

It was obviously an extraordinary article, Frank told us, and though it
would have to be thoroughly checked and carefully steered through the
paper, he would do all he could to see it published.

Over the next 11 weeks, from early November 1994 to late January 1995,
there were repeated delays and postponements, most ascribed to the
election aftermath, the new Congress, and the holidays.  But Frank and
his staff were steady in their editorial commitment and enthusiasm,
something Denton saw firsthand in a visit in *Outlook* offices before

Meanwhile, as the article was set in galleys, there were numerous faxes
back and forth, shipments of documents, photos, and even stills from
videotape, and weeks of painstaking checking, editing, and legal review
by the *Post's* in-house lawyers, carefully chosen to avoid any
potential conflict of interest with attorneys the paper might share
somehow with the Clintons.

"Just get everybody on board," Frank said Executive Editor Leonard
Downie had told him.  And Frank had done just that, as we patiently
answered queries from any number of *Post* editors and reporters who had
been remotely associated with aspects of the story -- far more, we were
told later, than to the usual *Outlook* piece.  But then, we recognized
that this was anything but usual.

At last, on January 25, it all seemed done.  Everyone had signed off, we
were assured.  The galleys were in final form, the contracts signed, and
publication was set for a major splash on Sunday the twenty-ninth.
Often strained over the weeks of work and marshaling, Frank's own voice
seemed audibly relaxed as we began talking about how we would respond to
other media questions.

Then suddenly -- literally at the last moment -- as *Outlook* went to
press on January 26, Frank was on the message machine saying Managing
Editor Robert Kaiser had held the story yet again.  At the same moment,
we were being called by the London *Sunday Telegraph*, whose
correspondence had been leaked an early version of the piece (by a
source high up at *The Post*, we were told) and had learned even before
we did that the story was being held once more.  He was now planning to
file his own dispatch on the whole episode, perhaps including the piece

A bit desperate, we called Bob Kaiser directly, not to lobby further for
the story -- which Frank had told us would be in vain -- but to alert
him to the disturbing news of the *Telegraph* leak.  But even after
Morris explained all that through a secretary, Kaiser refused to come on
the line.  "He doesn't want to talk to you," she said.  Frustrated,
furious, convinced that Kaiser was not dealing with the story
professionally -- and likely never would -- we pulled it.

We still don't know why the story was suppressed, though rumors
abound -- of CIA compromises at *The Post*, of calls from the White
House, or some imagined rivalry between Morris's book and a Clinton
biography by a longtime *Post* reporter, soon to be serialized and,
unusually, promoted in the paper.

Whatever the motives, however, the fact remains that once more,
mainstream media had turned away from the dark side, perhaps dreading
what it would find there and what it would have to do as a result,
perhaps afraid of something of its own reflection.

As so often in the past, the public service of airing stores like Mena
would fall to braver outlets, like *Penthouse*.  -- Sally Denton and
Roger Morris.

The Crimes of Mena

by Sally Denton and Roger Morris


July, 1995

Barry Seal -- gunrunner, drug trafficker, and covert CIA 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 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

It is a tale of massive, socially devastating crime, of what seems to
have been an official cover-up to match, and, not the 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 Arkansas of the 1980s that was a
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 Airport.

>From first accounts circulating locally in Arkansas, the story surfaced
nationally as early as 1989 in a *Penthouse* article called "Snowbound,"
written by 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

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 home.

"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 CIA*, 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

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 and 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 citizens.

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 crimes were committed with the acquiescence, if
not the complicity, of elements of the U.S. 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, U.S. 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 U.S.
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 tie 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 hall."

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 U.S. 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 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 U.S.  attorney
general Edwin Meese, Seal "smuggled between $3 billion and $5 billion of
drugs into the U.S."

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 government.

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 added, "It was true, but at the time Barry was working for the

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 Seals'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
U.S. 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 Castilo and others, the aircraft was allegedly
involved in a return traffic in cocaine, profits from which were then
used to finance more clandestine gunrunning.

FAA 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

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 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

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

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 companies -- all 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

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 Medellin 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 a 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 indifference.

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 logic, 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

Perhaps most telling is what is so visibly missing from the voluminous
files.  In thousands of pages reflecting a man of meticulous
organization and planning, 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 U.S. Army paratroop equipment, as well as
military-like 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 he 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 apprehension.

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 U.S.

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 it 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

"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 crimes.

The Seal documents are still more proof that Clinton, the Arkansas of
the eighties and the company that 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

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 now 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

~END ~

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