The Crimes of Mena:

Small Town For Smuggling



"Small Town For Smuggling"
By  Jack Anderson and Dale Van Atta
THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE 
 March 1, 1989

        THE JOKE AROUND Mena, Ark., is that everyone works for
the Central Intelligence Agency.
         Mena is a tiny town of 5,000 nestled in the Ozark
Mountains, far from the interstate. Its most noteworthy
landmark is what locals call "The Barry Seal Memorial
Airport," in memory of a notorious drug smuggler.
        From 1982 to 1986, Seal used the airport as the
headquarters for a massive drug-dealing, arms-smuggling
and money-laundering operation. During part of that time,
he was both a smuggler and an undercover federal
informant posing as a smuggler. He was killed in 1986 by
the Medellin cocaine cartel of Colombia.
         STATE AND local police suspect that the Mena airport
is still being used by smugglers. But efforts to prove
that have been stymied at every turn. Police have been
stonewalled by the Justice Department, the Drug
Enforcement Administration, the FBI and even the Internal
Revenue Service. When the heat is on, the suspects fall
back on the line that worked for Barry Seal. They say
they work for the CIA.
       Sources tell us that several Mena businesses have
used that line to discourage state officials from asking
too many questions about their activities.
       In late 1987, a firm which once had a minor
maintenance contract with the Strategic Defense Command,
used that tie to convince the airport authority to build
a security fence around a hangar and supply more guards
to protect an airplane.
       A former top Pentagon criminal investigator checked
through the Pentagon's top secret "black" channels to see
if the government is sanctioning any covert activities in
Mena. The answer was no.
      Sources familiar with the ongoing activities in
Mena speculate that the area is one of several places
used to ship private aid to the Nicaraguan Contras. "They
pushed Ollie (North) aside and kept going," one source
said.
       A CONGRESSIONAL investigator told our associate Jim
Lynch that covert support operations that used to be in
highly visible places in southern Florida were moved to
remote locations. The former Pentagon investigator said
some of those operations are suspected of financing their
private military aid by running drugs.
       Since Seal's death, a new cast has settled in at
the Mena airport. One business calls itself an
"international aircraft delivery company," another
"delivers aircraft parts all over the world." State
police are wondering why all those international services
picked a remote base in the Ozarks.
_____________________

" Drug Runner's Legacy"
By  Jack Anderson and Dale Van Atta
THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE   
February 2, 1989

THE CLOAK AND dagger legacy of Barry Seal lives on
in a little town in Arkansas, three years after the
international drug smuggler-turned-informant was
assassinated.
       Seal was believed to have introduced the Medellin
cocaine cartel of Colombia to the United States. He flew
drugs and arms in and out of the tiny Arkansas town of
Mena in the Ozark Mountains. In 1986, after Seal became a
snitch for the Drug Enforcement Administration, the
cartel gunned him down on a street in Baton Rouge, La.
       Just exactly what arrangement Seal had with the
U.S. government is still unclear. And it appears the
government wants to keep it that way. Investigators in
Louisiana and Arkansas claim Seal was allowed to continue
smuggling drugs and guns while he spied for the
government, and he may have been linked to the secret
Nicaraguan Contra supply network.
      FRUSTRATED investigators told our associate Jim Lynch
that the full story on Seal could make a mockery of the
administration's war on drugs and heap more embarrassment
on the government for the Iran-Contra scandal.
       In April 1986, two months after Seal was killed,
two Louisiana state police investigators wrote an angry
letter to the Drug Enforcement Administration. They
blamed the agency for failing to protect Seal from the
Medellin cartel. They said the DEA allowed Seal to pose
as a drug smuggler under cover, and continue his
lucrative business as a real smuggler at the same time.
        The Louisiana attorney general asked then-U.S.
Attorney General Edwin Meese to investigate the handling
of Seal. Meese never responded.
       Seal left behind a criminal resume unrivaled in the
smuggling business. He was a pilot for TWA in the early
1970s and then quit to fly drugs and arms around the
world. By the late 1970s, Louisiana police were tracking
the smuggler they called the "fat man." Seal moved his
operation to Mena. When he was arrested in 1984, he
offered his services to the Drug Enforcement
Administration.
       ARKANSAS OFFICIALS have pushed for a federal grand
jury to investigate Seal's enterprise and any remnants
that might still be operating in Mena.
       Rep. Bill Alexander, D-Ark., smells a coverup and
has suggested convening a state grand jury. The House
Subcommittee on Crime sent a sleuth to Mena last year.
The Seal case is expected to be a centerpiece in the
committee's upcoming report on how the federal government
interferes in local law enforcement.


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