Adler Berriman "Barry" Seal (July 16, 1939 - February 19, 1986) murdered in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Seal was a DEA informant/operative who was deeply involved in Iran-Contra and Gov. Bill Clinton's Mena, Arkansas drug smuggling and money laundering operation through the Arkansas Development Finance Authority (ADFA).
Seal was a Green Beret in the Vietnam war and later a pilot for TWA. In 1972 he was indicted but acquitted on charges of conspiring to ship explosives to anti-Castro Cubans in Mexico. From 1973 to 1982 he ran a no questions asked airplane dealership, which included as customers the CIA. During this period he also flew marijuana, and later cocaine from Colombia to his private airstrip near Baton Rouge.
Turns government informant
In 1982 he was arrested in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida for possession with intent to deliver quaaludes. He faced a 10-year sentence. He tried to cut a deal with the Florida DEA, but they weren't interested. So, Seal flew to Washington, DC for a hearing before the National Narcotics Border Interdiction Task Force (NNBITF). The NNBITF was a Vice Presidential Task Force. They overruled the concerns of the Miami DEA office and made an plea bargain arrangement with Seal. He was put to work in Operation Screamer, which included the largest drug bust in Nevada history. Later, Oliver North's network had Seal work undercover to discredit the Sandinista government. Seal agreed to fly his C-130 transport plane to a site where Sandinista soldiers would be videotaped loading it with 750 kilos of cocaine. This video evidence was widely publicized in the US, until it became known that it had been faked. That cleared Seal of the DEA. North then recruited the ex-Green Beret to help manage and fly missions to Central America. That took him to Mena, Arkansas.
The Boland Amendment restricted President Ronald Reagan from using US funds to directly exercise his foreign policy objective of removinging the Soviet and Cuban backed Sandinista regime of Nicaragua which was using its toehold in Central America to foment violent revolution in neighboring El Salvador. It specifically barred the CIA and the DIA from assisting the Nicarauguan Contra rebels. A covert non-governmental organization was set up to train pilots in Arkansas and ship weapons purchased with non-governmental funds to Nicaragua.
Seal first made contact with the Medellin cartel's Miami contacts, Fillix Dixon Bates and Carlos Bustmante. Medellin was headed at time by the Ochoa brothers: Juan, Jorge and Flavio Ochoa. Soon he was in Colombia contracting with the Ochoas to deliver their cocaine to customers in Miami and the West Coast.
Staff writer Gary Webb for the San Jose Mercury News published a series of articles detailing that at the time Seal was operating a San Francisco Bay area drug ring sold tons of cocaine to Los Angeles street gangs and funneled profits to Contra groups affiliated with the Mena operation. According to Webb, the CIA had thwarted repeated attempts to prosecute the ring's kingpin possibly to cover-up ties between traffickers and Contra leaders.
A later CIA inspector general's declassified report admitted the CIA had been at Mena for routine aviation related services, and that L.D. Brown, an Arkansas state policeman assigned to security at the governor mansion and Governor Bill Clinton's driver, had been a candidate for CIA employment in 1984 at the suggestion of Bill Clinton. The report also stated the CIA installed cameras on Seal's plane had limited contact with Seal. The camaras had been used for an anti-Sandinista propaganda video widely circulated in the United States.
Brown noticed an ad in the paper for CIA employment and discussed it with Bill Clinton who encouraged him to apply. As part of the interview process, Brown was asked to write an essay. Bill Clinton even suggested the topic of the essay, drug smuggling in Central America, and edited the essay for him. An individual at the CIA headquarters in Dallas interviewed Brown then told Brown he would be getting a phone call from someone he needed to meet. The call came from Barry Seal who invited him to Mena. Seal then invited Brown to take an airplane flight to Central America on a C-123 in 1984 which he did. On this flight some Hispanics kicked some containers out of the plane. At the flight's end they loaded duffel bags and flew them back to Mena. Seal showed Brown cocaine in the duffel bags.
Arkansas state police investigator Russell Welch supplied US Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas Asa Hutchinson with a list of 20 witnesses that included Barry Seal and officers of Rich Mountain Aviation in Mena, but Hutchinson only subpoenaed two of the 20 witnesses to the grand jury, and they complained that Hutchinson asked nothing about the crime. (Hutchinson was later elected Governor of Arkansas.)
Internal Revenue Service agent Bill Duncan was asked by Hutchinson to look for evidence of money laundering, which Duncan found. Duncan reported that Seal had a Learjet, helicopters, military cargo planes, several smaller planes, and two ships with navigational equipment, one of which had a helipad.
Hutchinson was succeeded as United States Attorney by Michael Fitzhugh. Duncan made several trips to Fort Smith, Arkansas to talk to Fitzhugh but said the trips were to no avail. Duncan was never called to testify before the federal grand jury on Mena. Duncan later testified that Mena Airport money laundering was covered up by the United States Attorney.
After leaving the IRS, Duncan testified before the House Government Operations Subcommittee that evidence showed drug smuggling, gun running, money laundering and covert operations by Seal and employees and contract operatives of the United States intelligence services whereby profits were used to fund covert aid to the Contras.
The FBI also kept a file on the Mena airport for years. Polk County prosecutor for Mena, Charles Black, said that he believed that federal law enforcement agencies from the Justice Department to the FBI to the DEA received encouragement to downplay any investigation that might expose Seal's activities and the National Security Council's involvement in them. He believed that the activities of Seal were so valuable to the Contra effort that no information concerning Seal's activities could be released to the public.
Seal said in a federal drug trial in Las Vegas, Nevada in 1985 that he flew 10 flights a year for 10 years carrying from 600-1200 pounds of cocaine each trip, the cocaine being worth $20,000-$50,000 a pound.
In the summer of 1985, Seal appeared before Sen. John Kerry's Subcommittee on Terrorism, Narcotics, and International Operations and gave testimony against the Medellin cartel, implicating the Ochoa Brothers.
In December 1985 Seal was sentenced on earlier drug charges to six months probation with community service at a Salvation Army shelter. He was not to leave Baton Rouge or carry a firearm. Seal began his Salvation Army shelter stint in January, 1986. Then on February 19, he was assassinated in front of the shelter, shot over 50 times with an Ingram Mac-10 and an Uzi.
United States Representative Bill Alexander, representing the 1st District of Arkansas, and Arkansas Secretary of State Winston Bryant flew to Washington to deliver evidence to Lawrence Walsh, special prosecutor for the Iran-Contra investigation, and told Walsh there was absolutely an Iran-Contra connection with Mena, Arkansas. Later the congressman said the Feds dropped the ball and covered it up.
When asked about it in 1991, Governor Bill Clinton claimed he authorized financial help for a grand jury investigation. He said his office dropped off the entire investigative file to a congressional committee. However Charles Black, the Polk County prosecutor, publicly disputed the Clinton's recollection regarding an offer of financial help. Black said he asked for financial help, but the Clinton's office never followed up on the offer.
The Clinton Chronicles documented the Mena airport as the command post of the biggest drug-smuggling operation in the United States importing $100 million per month in cocaine. It alleged that much of that money had been laundered through the Arkansas Development Finance Authority (ADFA), a bonding agency that Bill Clinton created to help small businesses get started. The video and Mara Leveritt's 1999 book, The Boys on the Tracks discussed that Bill Clinton's half-brother, Roger Clinton, and his bond dealer friend Dan Lasater had gone to prison for cocaine. Richard Garrett had stated on Unsolved Mysteries, a television program which taped informational segments regarding the boys' on the tracks beginning in 1988, that Saline County and Central Arkansas were overrun with drug-trafficking at a high level that extended to other counties and other states.
Leveritt also reported that Jack Blum, an investigator for John Kerry's subcommittee probing the Contra drug-smugglers, said that "The Justice Department flipped out to prevent us from getting access to people, records-anything that would help us find out about it." Blum also says the FBI denied the very existence of records relating to Mena. Blum said he uncovered a procedure which was particularly troubling because people would call the customs office in Miami and say, "Stand down, flights are going out, flights are coming in", and then the customs inspections would be stopped. Blum also said that officials at the Justice Department told US Attorneys "not to talk to us or give us paper."
In March 1998, the Washington Post quoted the CIA inspector general, Frederick Hitz, that dozens of people and companies connected to the Contra program were involved in drug trafficking. The report also said that there was an agreement in 1982, between the Attorney General and the CIA, that agency officers were not required to report allegations of drug trafficking involving non-employees, defined as paid and non-paid assets, pilots who ferried supplies to Contras, as well as Contra officials and others.
The boys on the tracks
One month after Eugene Hasenfus was shot down in October 1986 exposing to the Mena Contra supply operation, on November 3, 1986 the Lebanese newspaper Al-Shiraa reported the US sold arms to Iran. President Reagan denied knowledge of weapons sales being the funding source for the Nicaraguan Contras and asked a special prosecuter to investigate. The CIA shut down its Mena operation and left town.
But drug smuggling into Mena continued in Bill Clinton's Arkansas. The Clinton political machine and local economy now had a vested stake in seeing it continue, not to aid in the effort to bring about the collapse of communism which was occurring globally in 1986, but for the enrichment of themselves. On April 23, 1987, two 16 year old boys, Kevin Ives and Don Henry, stumbled upon and witnessed an aerial drop in the area of Bauxite and Alexander, Arkansas. Initial cause of death was claimed to be the result of passing out on a railroad track in Arkansas after smoking marijuana. The ruling was made by Arkansas' State medical examiner Dr. Fahmy Malak.
In April 1988, Kevin's body was exhumed, and another autopsy was performed, this one by Atlanta medical examiner Dr. Joseph Burton who discovered that Kevin died from a crushed skull prior to being placed on the tracks. Don Henry's body was exhumed and discovered to have been stabbed in the back prior to being placed on the tracks. The deaths were indeed homocides.
Arkansas State Police (ASP) files of the investigation report the area where the two boys' bodies were found was a drop zone for drugs. Another report was that on the night the boys were killed, two witnesses saw two police officers beat up two boys and throw them in the back of a police car a short distance from where the bodies were found.
John Brown, an investigator for the Saline County Sheriffs office, reported that Sheriff Pridgen and ex-prosecutor Jean Duffey talked to a pilot in Texas who admitted being a drug pilot and remembered that he had flown drugs to points near the Saline-Pulaski county lines, precisely where the boys' bodies were found. Prosecutor Duffey concluded the cover-up was because the drugs were Mena drugs.
A federal investigation was begun, but the Assistant United States Attorney, Bob Govar, reported that the FBI and DEA did not seem interested and did not furnish much help. Other reports in the state police file revealed that residents had complained about frequent low-flying planes in the area around the tracks.
In September 1995, agent William Temple of the FBI office in Little Rock told Linda Ives and her husband that it might be time for her to consider that a crime was not committed although the FBI had been working for two years on the case through its agent, Phyllis Coman.
In March 1996, the documentary, Obstruction of Justice, was released about the investigation into the murders and Dan Harmon's activities. John Brown, a former Saline county detective on the video, made the link between drug corruption in Saline County and drug corruption at Mena which began when Russell Welch, the Arkansas State police investigator in Mena, gave him a statement made by a confidential informant in federal prison which said the boys were killed because of the drug activity they had discovered and it was connected to the drug enterprise headquartered at Mena. The video explained what was known about Barry Seal and his use of airplanes to distribute cocaine. Brown told of reports he had found in the Saline County Sheriffs office dating back to 1987 and 1988 of residents living there where the boys' bodies were found complaining of planes flying over the tracks at 100 feet above ground level with their lights out.
In November 1996, Linda Ives, Kevin Ives mother, got a call from Philip Weiss who told her he had been asked to prepare an article in the New York Times Magazine about people who hated Clinton. Weiss explained that Mark Fabiani, a White House lawyer, provided him with a set of news clippings about people who oppose the president and among those was a story about the "boys on the tracks." Linda Ives called Micah Morrison, an editorial page writer for the Wall Street Journal, who had written an article about her earlier in the year, inquiring about Phillip Weiss, and telling Morrison that Weiss talked about a packet of press clippings Weiss got from Fabiani including the article Morrison had written. Morrison then made wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal, January 6, 1997, in which he broke the news that the White House was distributing to reporters packets of news clips to attack victims claiming it to be "conspiracy theories and innuendo."
- Dark Alliance, the CIA, the Contras and the Crack Cocaine Explosion, Seven Stories Press, New York, 1999.
- November 1996
- L.D. Brown, Cross-fire: Witness in the Clinton Investigation, Black Forest Press, San Diego, California 1999
- On 14 August 2012 the FBI acknowledged in response to a FOIA request they have located approximately 7,427 pages of documents, 12 cassette tapes and 5 VHS tapes which are potentially responsive to Linda Ives, mother of Kevin Ives, request for documents.