Conspiracy Nation -- Vol. 7 Num. 06

("Quid coniuratio est?")


By Rowan Scarborough
(Washington Times National Weekly Edition, Jan. 22-28, 1996)

The House banking committee is investigating suspicions of criminal activities at Arkansas' Mena Airport, trying to separate fact from fiction in a list of accusations about drug dealing, gun running and government cover-ups during the 1980s.

The inquiry is a spinoff of the panel's extensive Whitewater probe, during which Arkansas sources repeatedly urged congressional staffers to explore dealings said to have occurred at the municipal airport while Bill Clinton was governor and Ronald Reagan was president.

Rep. Jim Leach, Iowa Republican and chairman of the committee, agreed in November. He issued a memo to committee members saying staffers would try to determine whether money from Barry Seal, a drug dealer, was laundered by businesses in and near the secluded airport in the Ouachita Mountains 130 miles southwest of Little Rock.

The memo outlining Mr. Leach's intentions was disclosed by Insight magazine in its Jan. 29 issue.

Mr. Leach's task is daunting, considering the breadth of the rumors buzzing around Seal, a convicted cocaine dealer and flamboyant aviator. Seal will be no help in sifting the truth. Columbian drug kings had him slain near his home in Baton Rouge, La., in 1986 after he became a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) informant.

"This is one of the most complex, tangled tales that we've come across ever," says a committee investigator and Whitewater watcher. "Our objective is to investigate this, and to either prove or disprove the allegations that are floating around Mena. The chairman sees as much virtue in laying these rumors to rest as in exposing a scandal."

It has been alleged that Seal used Mena as a base to ferry cocaine, launder money and supply the Nicaraguan Contras -- all while working for the DEA, the Reagan White House and the CIA.

A banking committee staffer said Jan. 17 that at this point the panel's inquiry is confined to one issue. "This is a money- laundering investigation," the aide said. "It may lead into other things. We have no interest in replowing old Iran-Contra ground."

The laundering was uncovered by an Internal Revenue Service official, William Duncan, and an Arkansas state policeman, Russell Welch. They believe there is enough evidence to bring charges against Seal's associates but claim they were stymied by federal authorities who wanted to keep a lid on clandestine activities at Mena.

The House panel has requested documents from the IRS, the CIA and the DEA but has not yet chosen to subpoena witnesses, the aide said Jan. 17. Investigators have interviewed Mr. Duncan, Mr. Welch and Bill Alexander, a former Democratic congressman from Arkansas who has sought a federal inquiry for years, beginning when he was a member of the House.

"I feel that the people of Arkansas and the people of the nation deserve to know the facts about the illegal drug trafficking and blatant money laundering that took place at Mena, Ark., during the 1980s," said Mr. Alexander, who practices law now in McLean, Va. and in Jonesboro, Ark.

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Aperi os tuum muto, et causis omnium filiorum qui pertranseunt. Aperi os tuum, decerne quod justum est, et judica inopem et pauperem. -- Liber Proverbiorum XXXI: 8-9