" 'Evidence' on Mena-CIA tie to go to Walsh Airport's inclusion in Contra probe urged" By Joe Nabbefeld THE ARKANSAS GAZETTE September 10, 1991 Attorney General Winston Bryant and Rep. Bill Alexander will meet with Iran-Contra special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh next week to present what Bryant called "credible evidence" that the CIA ran drugs into and guns out of the Mena Airport. At the urging of a group of University of Arkansas students, Bryant and Alexander in the past 45 days have conducted sworn interviews with an ex-CIA pilot, a former IRS agent, a state policeman who investigated the Mena Airport and others involved, Bryant said Monday. They also compiled documents gathered by state police. Bryant said the package shows "credible evidence" that government operatives secretly shipped guns from the Mena Airport to the Nicaraguan Contras and that the planes carried drugs on their return trip. Alexander and Bryant will ask Walsh in Washington, D.C., to include the Mena Airport in his Iran-Contra investigation, which last week generated an indictment of a top CIA official. "He's going to have to analyze the evidence and see if it's credible or not," Bryant said of Walsh. "We're going to say to Mr. Walsh that there appears to have been illegal drug activity at Mena and as special prosecutor we think you should investigate." The student group, called The Arkansas Committee, held a noon-time demonstration and news conference Monday at the Federal Building in downtown Little Rock. They passed out literature that they describe as evidence of drug- and gun-running at the airport and called for Gov. Bill Clinton and Arkansas's congressional delegation to push Walsh to include the airport in his investigation. In an interview after the demonstration, Bryant revealed that he and Alexander have been working on the case and that they have a meeting scheduled with Walsh for early next week. Alexander has taken an interest in Central and South American issues for years. A Democrat active in partisan national maneuvering, he has for several years pushed for a full investigation of what transpired at the Mena Airport and Republicans' culpability for it, particularly between 1984 and 1986 when convicted cocaine smuggler Barry Seal worked out of the airport as a government informant. Seal was slain in New Orleans in 1986. His drug smuggling for Colombian drug lords was the subject of a recent television movie. Bryant raised the Mena Airport issue in his attorney general campaign last year against Republican Asa Hutchinson, formerly U.S. attorney for Arkansas's Western District, which includes Mena. Hutchinson has faced allegations that he and other Republicans in the Justice Department were loathe to dig into the Contra supply network, and that their slowness allowed the statute of limitations to lapse on a number of alleged crimes. The issue died for Bryant after the campaign until The Arkansas Committee a couple of months ago submitted to him a petition calling for action by Arkansas's elected leaders, Bryant said Monday. The committee is led by Mark Swaney, its founder and president, and Tom Brown, its treasurer. Swaney, 37, is a graduate student in Fayetteville in mechanical engineering. Brown, 44, is an undergraduate. Much of the committee's information comes from the Christic Institute, a non-profit legal group that has sued the federal government over the Iran-Contra affair. "With the exception of Alexander, (Rep. Beryl) Anthony and Bryant, we've heard nothing but silence from Arkansas's political leaders about a major drug smuggling operation in the state," Brown said. Clinton spokesman Mike Gauldin said Monday that Clinton has been involved in looking into the airport situation via the state police. State police investigator Russell Welch has said his investigation revealed evidence of criminal and CIA activity. Asked if Clinton intends to push for action on that finding, Gauldin said he knew of nothing more he could say. Other members of the state's congressional delegation couldn't be reached to comment late Monday. Bryant said he and Alexander interviewed: Former CIA pilot and arms dealer Richard Brenneke. He claims he was one of the CIA pilots who flew into Mena, that he saw both drugs and guns there and that he laundered drug money in the area. Former IRS agent William Duncan, a native Arkansan who now works on Bryant's staff in the fraud division. Duncan testified to Congress in 1989 that IRS attorneys pressured him to lie to Congress and a federal grand jury in Arkansas to cover up what he found when he investigated Barry Seal. State police investigator Welch, who works out of Mena and closed his investigation a year ago. Bryant said they also gathered from the state police files documents and transcripts of testimony by figures such as Seal. "This is not new but we're just putting it together," said Bryant. "Mena is a blight on law enforcement in Arkansas in the 1980s and I would like to see something done on it."
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