Mena, Arkansas

Bush Clinton Iran-Contra guns & drugs scandal
What Clinton should have been impeached for

Asa Hutchinson, who helped cover up this scandal, is running as a Republican candidate for President (2023)

related pages:
Reed, Terry and Cummings, John. Compromised: Clinton, Bush and the CIA. New York: S.P.I. Books (Shapolsky Publishers), 1994. 556 pages.

In the 1980s, Terry Reed was a veteran of air force intelligence in Vietnam who had since earned his pilot's license and was itching for adventure, so Oliver North recruited him as a covert operative in his contra support network. Reed trained contra pilots with Barry Seal in Arkansas, and helped Seal launder CIA money to FOBs (Friends of Billary) there. Later he was assigned to Mexico and associated with Felix Rodriguez, the CIA's contra point man at an airport in El Salvador. Reed had second thoughts after he discovered that planes flying south with U.S. arms for the contras were returning north with cocaine. In October, 1986 the entire effort came unglued when a cargo plane with a U.S. crew was shot down over Nicaragua. Reed knew too much, so he was set up on mail fraud charges to keep him out of trouble (he was eventually acquitted).
Reed's story became intertwined with politics during the Clinton campaign of 1992. Time magazine, where FOB Strobe Talbott was an editor, smeared Reed in their April 20 issue. But Reed's credibility is also compromised by his own infatuation with covert cowboy ops -- apparently he still believes that Vietnam was a fun war that ended because bureaucrats in suits screwed it up. Nevertheless, this book shows convincingly that Whitewater is merely the tip of the banana in the Republic of Arkansas.
ISBN 1-56171-249-3

Barry and the Boys by Daniel Hopsicker is an authoritative account of this chapter in American history. Highest recommendations. It chronicles Barry Seal's career in the CIA from the 1960s (recruited by David Ferrie, a participant in the assassination of JFK), to his smuggling of large amounts of cocaine (through the Mena, Arkansas airport) that helped fund the "Contra" war of the 1980s.

Barry Seal's attorney - Richard Ben-Veniste - was a Democratic commissioner on the official 9/11 investigation. Ben-Veniste was a Democratic congressional staffer during the Clinton impeachment scandal, where he helped keep that investigation focused on Monica and not on Mena.

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. ...

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.

In the mood for real-life mystery? Mara Leveritt has a new book on the Mena airport
BY Max Brantley ON June 18, 2021

"Should Hutchinson actually run for president, we'll hear even more about Mena than we heard in one of his previous political races. Questions that still intrigue: What he did or didn't do as U.S. attorney in the early 1980s about allegations of drug and weapon running and, particularly, money laundering in Mena."
Don't stop at Waco, Asa By Mara Leveritt September 03, 1999
(about former Republican congressman Asa Hutchinson's involvement in Mena - he is now a top official in the Homeland Security)
A selective passion for truth
By Mara Leveritt Feb. 12, 1999

Last week I suggested that, rather than probing ad nauseum the president's lies about his extra-marital alliance(s), Washington could do us a favor by turning its investigative lights onto a question with some genuine national significance, to wit:
Precisely what was the relationship between various branches of the government, particularly the CIA, and this country's super-cocaine kingpins, such as Arkansas's own Barry Seal, during the 1980s?

The column did not exactly provoke a stampede to pick up the gauntlet. As I had outlined, there are powerful, bipartisan reasons why the questions about Seal have languished.
Republicans don't want to touch them for fear of where the answers might lead. The trail already points to the offices of former presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush.
Likewise, Democrats are not keen on kicking up a lot of dirt about Barry Seal, a major cocaine smuggler who, for reasons that remain a mystery, was allowed to base his multi-million-dollar operation in Arkansas, under the very eye of the Arkansas State Police, for four years while Bill Clinton was governor.
What did happen after that column appeared was that a reader called to remind me of the role played in the Seal saga by our own Republican Congressman Asa Hutchinson, the House manager who has been lately so aggressive in his prosecution of Clinton in the Senate.
Having listened to Hutchinson expound repeatedly on his desire only to get at "the truth" of the Clinton-Lewinsky affair, I am struck (as was my caller) by how remarkably unaggressive he was -- in fact, how surprisingly hands-off he was -- back in the 1980s when, as the U.S. attorney for western Arkansas, Hutchinson had the chance to prosecute Seal, the smuggler.
We now know that during the time that Seal headquartered his operation at Mena he was being watched by U.S. Customs officials, as well as by agents for the DEA, the FBI, and the IRS. Former IRS agent William Duncan has testified that Hutchinson, who was among the first to know of Seal's arrival in Arkansas, called a meeting in early 1983, at which Duncan was assigned to investigate Seal's suspected money laundering. Duncan did, and he tried to have members of Seal's gang indicted.
But when the IRS investigator asked Hutchinson to subpoena 20 witnesses who were prepared to testify about the alleged drug-trafficking at Mena, Hutchinson balked. Only three of the 20 were called, and of those, two later complained that they had not been allowed to present their evidence to the federal grand jury. The grand jury never indicted Seal or anyone else involved with him at Mena.
In 1991, five years after Seal was murdered, Duncan testified about his experience. "Are you stating now under oath that you believe that the investigation in and around the Mena airport of money laundering was covered up by the U.S. Attorney in Arkansas," he was asked. "It was covered up," he said.
Since then, I have spoken with Paul Whitmore, a former Chief of Criminal Investigation for the IRS, who was Duncan's superior. He oversaw the Seal investigation and concurs with Duncan's assessment that presentation of Duncan's evidence was blocked by Hutchinson's office.
At the time, and to this day, however, Hutchinson has cast himself as an anti-drug crusader. In light of that, I wrote to him after his election to Congress. I explained that I have had a Freedom of Information request pertaining to Barry Seal before the FBI for several years -- a request that the FBI has acknowledged should have been filled a long time ago. In light of that, I asked Hutchinson if he would intercede on my behalf to get the records released.
I was curious as to how hard Hutchinson would work to bring to light public records about a politically sensitive investigation in which he had played a significant part. As it turned out, he was not helpful at all. He replied that he had contacted the FBI concerning my request and that when he heard back from the agency he would "be back in touch" with me. That was more than a year ago. He has not been "back in touch."
By contrast, Rep. Vic Snyder, to whom I placed the same request, has been diligent in his support of my appeal. It seems to matter to Snyder that the Justice Department can flaunt a federal law, delaying by years, if it wants, the release of public information. The agency still hasn't budged on the Seal records, but Snyder's push for their release distinguishes him in this otherwise dark affair.
As for Hutchinson… I hope that some day he is held to account, as he would hold Clinton to account, for certain events of the past -- events that even this self-proclaimed seeker of truth might prefer would never come to light.
Copyright ©1998 Arkansas Writers' Project, Inc.