October 10, 2017

America’s biggest drug smuggler and Bill Clinton

Sam Smith – The new film, American Made, features Tom Cruise as the late Barry Seal, once the top drug smuggler into America, with Arkansas as a major destination. Unexamined by the film is the role played by the governor of the state, Bill Clinton. As during prohibition, the job of a friendly governor was to look the other way as his territory became a smuggler favorite. There’s no doubt Arkansas at the time was one of the top states for drug smuggling, illustrated by the tale of a drug pilot who told of landing in a pasture where his pickup was a state trooper in a marked car. 

Buzzfeed describes the one brief allusion to Clinton:   
They included a scene in which, after Seal has been arrested by multiple agencies, the attorney general of Arkansas fields a call from then-governor Clinton. Afterwards, Seal is released from custody and immediately whisked away to the White House — the implication being that Clinton had been asked by the Reagan administration to cut Seal loose so he could begin informing for the DEA. Clinton never appears in the scene — we only know it's him on the phone after the state attorney general calls him "Bill."
In the early 90s, I tried to tell the story, along with other seamy aspects of the Clintons in Arkansas, but the national media was not only disinterested, I even got banned from a scheduled CSPAN appearance by a network higher up as well as banned from appearing on  the local Washington NPR station. I had never run into such media denial but it would lead me not to be surprised by the failure of the press to have covered Trump’s New York past in time for voters to do something about it.

Fortunately, there were some reporters who did a fine job of reporting on the Clintons’ Arkansas. One of these was Mara Leveritt of the Arkansas Times, who includes this in her report on the new Tom Cruise film:

Mara Lerett, Arkansas Times - By late 1982, when Seal moved his aircraft to Mena [Arkansas] from his home base in Baton Rouge, federal agents had already identified him as "a major international narcotics trafficker." Police watching Mena's airport notified federal authorities that a fat man from Louisiana had begun frequenting an aircraft modification company there called Rich Mountain Aviation.

That same year, President Ronald Reagan appointed Asa Hutchinson, already a tough, anti-drug crusader, as U.S. attorney for the Western District of Arkansas. Wanting to keep tabs on Seal, Hutchinson ordered William Duncan, an investigator for the IRS, to watch for signs of money laundering around Mena resulting from Seal's presence.

Another investigator, Russell Welch of the State Police, was assigned to look for evidence of cocaine arriving there. Duncan and Welch both told me that being assigned to Seal ended up ruining their careers.

… Bill Clinton, who was governor throughout Seal's time at Mena, has … had little to say about the smuggler's presence. While governor, Clinton was drawn uncomfortably close to questions relating to cocaine after police arrested his half-brother, Roger Clinton, on charges of distributing cocaine, and Roger Clinton reported that he'd gotten the drug from his boss, Dan Lasater, a Little Rock bond trader and financial supporter of Clinton….

…In the fall of 1986, when FBI agents were investigating Dan Lasater, they questioned his personal pilot. That man reported that he had flown Lasater and his business partner, Patsy Thomasson, "to Belize to look at a horse farm that was for sale by a Roy Carver." He said that flight had taken place on Feb. 8, 1984, within weeks of the aborted trip Seal had reportedly planned to the same location. Lasater and Roger Clinton both pleaded guilty to drug charges and served time in prison. After Bill Clinton's election as president, he placed Thomasson in charge of the White House Office of Administration.

Though accusations abound, no link has ever been established between Clinton and Seal…

At one point, while Clinton was governor, the local prosecuting attorney for Mena had attempted to act where U.S. attorneys Hutchinson and Fitzhugh had not. Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Charles E. Black wanted to impanel a state grand jury to consider evidence that people at Rich Mountain Aviation had abetted Seal's drug-trafficking operation. Realizing that such a case would cost more than his district could afford, Black had asked the governor's office for a grant of $25,000. But Black said he never received a response.

Bill Alexander, one of Arkansas's long-term Democratic congressmen, supported Black's idea. Alexander told me that he wrote to Clinton personally, repeating Black's request and explaining that questions about Seal needed to be "resolved and laid to rest." But he, too, said that he did not recall receiving a response.

Yet, later on, when a reporter asked Clinton what he had known about Seal, the governor had a somewhat different recollection. He said that, although he had authorized payment of $25,000 to fund the grand jury Black had requested, "Nothing ever came of that."

On the subject of Seal, the usually astute governor had come across as unusually uninformed. A citizens' group called the Arkansas Committee suspected that state and federal authorities had agreed to protect Seal in Arkansas. Disturbed by Clinton's apparent disinterest, members of the group at one point unfurled a 10-foot-long banner at the state Capitol that asked: WHY IS CLINTON PROTECTING BUSH? In 1992, when Clinton and George H.W. Bush opposed each other for president, neither candidate mentioned Seal.

After Clinton's election as president, when White House correspondent Sarah McClendon asked him what he knew about Mena, he remained adamant but vague as he mischaracterized Black's investigation. "It was primarily a matter for federal jurisdiction," he said. "The state really had next to nothing to do with it.”

By now I've had a year to reflect on my experiences in writing about Seal, as well as those of Duncan, Welch, Black, Alexander, members of the Arkansas Committee, and others who've tried to shed light on his time in Arkansas. None of us much succeeded.

Mara Leveritt is author of "The Boys on the Tracks," "Devil's Knot" and "Dark Spell."

From our time line of the Arkansas story, Arkansas Connections:

Progressive Review
1978 - Roger Clinton develops a four-gram a day cocaine habit, getting his stuff from New York and Medellin suppliers, based (as one middleman will later testify) on "who his brother was." Sharlene Wilson is one of his dealers. Dan Lasater will give Roger work and loan him $8,000 to pay off a drug debt.
Juanita Broaddrick, a volunteer in Clinton's gubernatorial campaign, will later claim she was attacked by by Clinton and her lip almost bitten off.
According to Roger Morris in Partners in Power, a young woman lawyer in Little Rock will later claim that she was accosted by Clinton this year and that when she recoiled he forced himself on her, biting and bruising her. "Deeply affected by the assault, the woman decided to keep it all quiet for the sake of her own hard-won career and that of her husband. When the husband later saw Clinton at the 1980 Democratic Convention, he delivered a warning. 'If you ever approach her,' he told the governor, 'I'll kill you.' Not even seeing fit to deny the incident, Bill Clinton sheepishly apologized and duly promised never to bother her again."

1979- Sharlene Wilson will testify in a 1990 federal drug probe that she began selling cocaine to Roger Clinton as early as this year. She will also tell reporters that she sold two grams of cocaine to Clinton's brother at the Little Rock nightclub Le Bistro, then witnessed Bill Clinton consume the drug. "I watched Bill Clinton lean up against a brick wall," Wilson reveals to the London Telegraph's Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in 1995. "He was so messed up that night, he slid down the wall into a garbage can and just sat there like a complete idiot." Wilson also describes gatherings at Little Rock's Coachman's Inn between 1979 and 1981, where she saw Clinton using cocaine "quite avidly" with friends. Drug prosecutor Jean Duffey will say that she has no doubt that Wilson was telling the truth.

1980s - Arkansas becomes a major center of gun-running, drugs and money laundering. The IRS warns other law enforcement agencies of the state's "enticing climate." According to Clinton biographer Roger Morris, operatives go into banks with duffel bags full of cash, which bank officers then distribute to tellers in sums under $10,000 so they don't have to report the transaction.
Sharlene Wilson, according to investigative reporter Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, flies cocaine from to a pickup point in Texas. Other drugs, she and others say, are stuffed into chickens for shipping around the country. Wilson also serves as "the lady with the snow" at "toga parties" attended, she reports, by Bill Clinton.

According to Wilson,"I lived in Little Rock, Arkansas, O.K.? And I worked at a club called Le Bistro's, and I met Roger Clinton there, Governor Bill Clinton, a couple of his state troopers that went with him wherever he went. Roger Clinton had come up to me and he had asked me could I give him some coke, you know, and asked for my one-hitter, which a one-hitter is a very small silver device,O.K., that you stick up into your nose and you just squeeze it and a snort of cocaine will go up in there.And I watched Roger hand what I had given him to Governor Clinton, and he just kind of turned around and walked off."
Investor's Business Daily would later write, "Sally Perdue, a former Miss Arkansas and Little Rock talk show host who said she had an affair with then-Gov. Clinton in 1983, told the London Sunday Telegraph that he once came over to her house with a bag full of cocaine. ''He had all the equipment laid out, like a real pro.''

In the 1990s, Genifer Flowers tells Sean Hannity's WABC talk radio show: "He smoked marijuana in my presence and and offered me the opportunity to snort cocaine if I wanted to. I wasn't into that. Bill clearly let me know that he did cocaine. And I know people that knew he did cocaine. He did tell me that when he would use a substantial amount of cocaine that his head would itch so badly that he would become self conscious at parties where he was doing this. Because all he wanted to do while people were talking to him is stand around and scratch his head. ...."

Two Arkansas state troopers will swear under oath that they have seen Clinton ''under the influence'' of drugs when he was governor. Sharlene Wilson is a bartender who ended up serving time on drug crimes and cooperating with drug investigators. She told a federal grand jury she saw Clinton and his younger brother ''snort'' cocaine together in 1979. Jack McCoy, a Democratic state representative and Clinton supporter, told the Sunday Telegraph that he could ''remember going into the governor's conference room once and it reeked of marijuana.'' Historian Roger Morris, in his book ''Partners in Power,'' quotes several law enforcement officials who say they had seen and knew of Clinton's drug use. One-time apartment manager Jane Parks claims that in 1984 she could listen through the wall as Bill and Roger Clinton, in a room adjoining hers, discussed the quality of the drugs they were taking.

According to his wife, security operative Jerry Parks delivers large sums of money from Mena airport to Vince Foster at a K-Mart parking lot. Mrs. Parks discovers this when she opens her car trunk one day and finds so much cash that she has to sit on the trunk to close it again. She asks her husband whether he is dealing drugs, and he allegedly explains that Foster paid him $1,000 for each trip he took to Mena. Parks said he didn't "know what they were doing, and he didn't care to know. He told me to forget what I'd seen.". . . .Later Evans-Pritchard will write, "Foster was using him as a kind of operative to collect sensitive information on things and do sensitive jobs. Some of this appears to have been done on behalf of Hillary Clinton. . . Foster told him that Hillary wanted it done. Now, my understanding . . . is that she wanted to know how vulnerable he would be in a presidential race on the question of -- how shall I put it? -- his appetites."

Dan Lasater's parties become known around Little Rock for the availability of cocaine and women.

1980  -There are reports that following his loss running for reelection, Clinton ended up in the hospital for a drug overdose. Journalist R. Emmett Tyrrell later asked emergency room workers at the University of Arkansas Medical Center if they could confirm the incident. He didn't get a flat ''no'' from the hospital staff. One nurse said, ''I can't talk about that.'' Another said she feared for her life if she spoke of the matter. Newsmax will report: "Dr. Sam Houston, a respected Little Rock physician and once a doctor for Hillary's cantankerous father, Hugh Rodham, says it is well known in Little Rock medical circles that Clinton was brought to a Little Rock hospital for emergency treatment for an apparent cocaine overdose. According to Houston, who told us he spoke to someone intimately familiar with the details of what happened that night, Clinton arrived at the hospital with the aid of a state trooper. Hillary Clinton had been notified by phone and had instructed the hospital staff that Clinton's personal physician would be arriving soon. When Mrs. Clinton arrived, she told both of the resident physicians on duty that night that they would never practice medicine in the United States if word leaked out about Clinton's drug problem. Reportedly, she pinned one of the doctors up against the wall, both hands pressed against his shoulders, as she gave her dire warning."

1981  - Major drug trafficker Barry Seal, under pressure from the Louisiana cops, relocates his operations to Mena, Arkansas. Seal is importing as much as 1,000 pounds of cociane a month from Colombia according to Arkansas law enforcement officials. He will claim to have made more than $50 million out of his operations. As an informant, Seal testified that in 1980-81, before moving his operation to Arkansas, he made approximately 60 trips to Central America and brought back 18,000 kilograms. In 1996 the Progressive Review will report: "The London Telegraph has obtained some of the first depositions in ex-CIA contract flyer Terry Reed's suit against Clinton's ex-security chief - and now a high- paid FEMA director - Buddy Young. According to the Telegraph's Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, "Larry Patterson, an Arkansas state trooper, testified under oath that there were 'large quantities of drugs being flown into the Mena airport, large quantities of money, large quantities of guns.' The subject was discussed repeatedly in Clinton's presence by state troopers working on his security detail, he alleged. Patterson said the governor 'had very little comment to make; he was just listening to what was being said.'"
Roger Morris & Sally Denton, Penthouse Magzine - 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. . .

Mena state police investigator Russell Welch will later describe the airport, pointing to one hanger he says is owned by a man who "doesn't exist in history back past a safe house in Baltimore in 1972." Another is owned by someone who "smuggled heroin through Laos back in the seventies." Still another is "owned by a guy who just went bankrupt. So what's he do? Flies to Europe for more money." Welch points to a half dozen Fokker aircraft parked on an apron, noting that "the DEA's been tracking those planes back and forth to Columbia for a while now." 

1982 - A DEA report uncovered by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard will cite an informant claiming that a key Arkansas figure and backer of Clinton "smuggles cocaine from Colombia, South America, inside race horses to Hot Springs."
The London Telegraph's Ambrose Evans-Prichard writes, "Basil Abbott, a convicted drug pilot, says that he flew a Cessna 210 full of cocaine into Marianna, in eastern Arkansas, in the spring of 1982. The aircraft was welcomed by an Arkansas State Trooper in a marked police car. 'Arkansas was a very good place to load and unload' he said."

IRS agent William Duncan and an Arkansas State Police investigator take their evidence concerning drug trafficking in Mena to US Attorney Asa Hutchinson. They ask for 20 witnesses to be subpoenaed before the grand jury. Hutchinson chooses only three. According to reporter Mara Leveritt, "The three appeared before the grand jury, but afterwards, two of them also expressed surprise at how their questioning was handled. One, a secretary at Rich Mountain Aviation, had given Duncan sworn statements about money laundering at the company, transcripts of which Duncan had provided to Hutchinson. But when the woman left the jury room, she complained that Hutchinson had asked her nothing about the crime or the sworn statements she'd given to Duncan. As Duncan later testified, 'She basically said that she was allowed to give her name, address, position, and not much else.' The other angry witness was a banker who had, in Duncan's words, 'provided a significant amount of evidence relating to the money-laundering operation.' According to Duncan, he, too, emerged from the jury room complaining 'that he was not allowed to provide the evidence that he wanted to provide to the grand jury.'"

Roger Morris & Sally Denton, Penthouse Magzine - According to l.R.S. criminal investigator Duncan, secretaries at the Mena Airport told him that when Seal flew into Mena, I'there would be stacks of cash to be taken to the bank and laundered." One secretary told him that she was ordered to obtain numerous cashier's checks, each in an amount just under $10,000, at various banks in Mena and surrounding communities, to avoid filing the federal Currency Transaction Reports required for all bank transactions that exceed that limit. Bank tellers testified before a federal grand jury that in November 1982, a Mena airport employee carried a suitcase containing more than $70,000 into a bank. "The bank officer went down the teller lines handing out the stacks of $1,000 bills and got the cashier's checks." Law-enforcement sources confirmed that hundreds of thousands of dollars were laundered from 1981 to 1983 just in a few small banks near Mena, and that millions more from Seal's operation were laundered elsewhere in Arkansas and the nation.

1983  - Although he is under investigation for drug activities, Dan Lasater's firm is given a piece of 14 state bond issues.

1984 - Dan Lasater buys a ski resort in New Mexico for $20 million and uses Clinton's name (with permission) to promote it. Later, a US Customs investigative report will note that the resort is being used for drug operations and money laundering. Lasater also flies to Belize with his aide Patsy Thomasson to buy a 24,000 acre ranch. Among those present at the negotiations is the US Ambassador. The deal falls through because of the opposition of the Belize government.

Hot Springs police record Roger Clinton during a cocaine transaction. Roger says, "Got to get some for my brother. He's got a nose like a vacuum cleaner." Roger is arrested while working at menial jobs for Arkansas "bond daddy" Dan Lasater.

Barry Seal estimates that he has earned between $60 and $100 million smuggling cocaine into the US, but with the feds closing in on him, Barry Seal flies from Mena to Washington in his private Lear Jet to meet with two members of Vice President George Bush's drug task force. Following the meeting, Seal rolls over for the DEA, becoming an informant. He collects information on leaders of the Medellin cartel while still dealing in drugs himself. The deal will be kept secret from investigators working in Louisiana and Arkansas. According to reporter Mara Leveritt, "By Seal's own account, his gross income in the year and a half after he became an informant - while he was based at Mena and while Asa Hutchinson was the federal prosecutor in Fort Smith, 82 miles away - was three-quarters of a million dollars. Seal reported that $575,000 of that income had been derived from a single cocaine shipment, which the DEA had allowed him to keep. Pressed further, he testified that, since going to work for the DEA, he had imported 1,500 pounds of cocaine into the U.S. Supposed informant Seal will fly repeatedly to Colombia, Guatemala, and Panama, where he meets with Jorge Ochoa, Fabio Ochoa, Pablo Escobar, and Carlos Lehder - leaders of the cartel that at the time controlled an estimated 80 percent of the cocaine entering the United States."

Clinton bodyguard, state trooper LD Brown, applies for a CIA opening. Clinton gives him help on his application essay including making it more Reaganesque on the topic of the Nicaragua. According to Brown, he meets a CIA recruiter in Dallas whom he later identities as former member of Vice President Bush's staff. On the recruiter's instruction, he meets with notorious drug dealer Barry Seal in a Little Rock restaurant. Joins Seal in flight to Honduras with a purported shipment of M16s and a return load of duffel bags. Brown gets $2,500 in small bills for the flight. Brown, concerned about the mission, consults with Clinton who says, "Oh, you can handle it, don't sweat it." On second flight, Brown finds cocaine in a duffel bag and again he seeks Clinton's counsel. Clinton says to the conservative Brown, "Your buddy, Bush, knows about it" and, of the cocaine, "that's Lasater's deal."

Clinton wins re-election with 64% of the vote.

1985  - Roger Clinton pleads guilty to cocaine distribution but cops a plea on more serious charges with a promise to cooperate. He will serve a short prison term.

According to Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, on June 4, 1985, the diary of Arkansas State police lieutenant Russell Welch says that an agent from the DEA "informed me in strictest confidence that it was believed, within his department, that [major drug transporter] Barry Seal is flying weapons to Central and South America. In return he is allowed to smuggle what he wanted back into the United States".

1986 -Journalist Evans-Pritchard will describe the Arkansas of this period as a "major point for the transshipment of drugs" and "perilously close to becoming a 'narco-republic' -- a sort of mini-Columbia within the borders of the United States." There is "an epidemic of cocaine, contaminating the political establishment from top to bottom," with parties "at which cocaine would be served like hors d'oeuvres and sex was rampant." Clinton attends some of these events.

According to former CIA officials David MacMichael and Ray McGovern, Barry Seal, a former TWA pilot who had trained Nicaraguan Contra pilots in the early eighties, and who is facing a long sentence after a federal drug conviction in Florida, makes his way to the White House's National Security Council to make the following proposition to officials there. He would fly his own plane to Colombia and take delivery of cocaine. He would then make an emergency landing in Nicaragua and make it appear that Sandinista officials were aiding him in drug trafficking. Seal made it clear that he would expect help with his legal problems. The Reagan White House jumps at the offer. Seal's plane is flown to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, where it was fitted with secret cameras to enable Seal to photograph Nicaraguan officials in the act of assisting him with the boxes of cocaine.

On January 17, the U. S. Attorney for the Western District drops a money laundering and narcotics-conspiracy charges against associates of drug smuggler Barry Seal over the protests of investigators Russell Welch of the state police and Bill Duncan of the Internal Revenue.

In a letter to U.S. attorney general Edwin Meese the Louisiana attorney general wrote, Barry Seal "smuggled between $3 billion and $5 billion of drugs into the U.S."

The operation goes as planned. The photos are delivered to the White House, and a triumphant Ronald Reagan goes on national TV to show that the Sandinistas are not only Communists but also criminals intent on addicting America s youth.

Dan Lasater, Arkansas bond don who is close to Clinton, pleads guilty to cocaine distribution charges. The case also involves Clinton step brother Roger, who testifies against Lasater in a plea agreement. Both Lasater and Roger Clinton will serve brief prison terms. While Lasater is in prison his affairs will be run by Patsy Thomasson, who later becomes a White House aide.

Seal is scheduled to testify at the trial of Jorge Ochoa Vasques. But on February 19, shortly before the trial is to begin, Seal is murdered in Baton Rouge gangland style by three Colombian hitmen armed with machine guns who attack while he seated behind the wheel of his white Cadillac in Baton Rouge, La. The Colombians, connected with the Medellin drug cartel, are tried and convicted. Upon hearing of Seal's murder, one DEA agent says, "There was a contract out on him, and everyone knew it. He was to have been a crucial witness in the biggest case in DEA history."

According to the London Telegraph's Ambrose Evans-Prichard, "Seal was probably the biggest importer of cocaine in American history. Between 1980 and his assassination in 1986, his team of pilots smuggled in 36 metric tons of cocaine, 104 tons of marijuana and three tons of heroin, according to a close associate of Seal. The sums of money involved were staggering. At his death, Seal left a number of operational bank accounts. One of them, at the Cayman Islands branch of the Fuji Bank, currently has an interest-earning balance of $1,645,433,000. "

Roger Morris & Sally Denton, Penthouse Magzine:  Seal himself spent considerable sums to land, base, maintain, and specially equip or refit his aircraft for smuggling. According to personal and business records, he had extensive associations at Mena and in Little Rock, and was in nearly constant telephone contact with Mena when he was not there himself. Phone records indicate Seal made repeated calls to Mena the day before his murder. This was long after Seal, according to his own testimony, was working as an $800,000-a-year informant for the federal government.

Eight months after the murder, Seal's cargo plane is shot down over Nicaragua. It is carrying ammunition and other supplies for the Contras from Mena. One crew member, Eugene Hasenfus, survives.

Roger Morris & Sally Denton, Penthouse Magzine - Tax records show that, having assessed Seal posthumously for some $86 million in back taxes on his earnings from Mena and elsewhere between 1981 and 1983, even the l.R.S. forgave the taxes on hundreds of millions in known drug and gun profits over the ensuing two-year period when Seal was officially admitted to be employed by the government.

Roger Morris & Sally Denton, Penthouse Magzine - Arkansas state trooper Larry Patterson [would later testify] under oath, according to *The London Sunday Telegraph*, that he and other officers "discussed repeatedly in Clinton's presence" the "large quantities of drugs being flown into the Mena airport, large quantities of money, large quantities of guns," indicating that Clinton may have known much more about Seal's activities than he has admitted.

For MoreThe Crimes of Mena


Walter Wouk said...

Saved to Pocket.

Anonymous said...

Kudos Sam for being a leading liberal voice on the Clinton Crime Family.