"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.