FLOTSAM & JETSAM: Drugs and Arkansas

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Drugs and Arkansas

From our archives

1994 - Writing in the Oct. 9 London Telegraph, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard wrote that Arkansas was a "major point for the transshipment of drugs" during the 1980s and "perilously close to becoming a 'narco-republic' -- a sort of mini-Columbia within the borders of the United States." Evans-Pritchard also alleges that by "1986 there was 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." He adds that Clinton attended some of these events.

1994 - The Oct. 18 Wall Street Journal contains a good summary of the suppressed investigation into drug running through the Mena, AK, airport. The feds apparently sabotaged the investigation and Clinton's administration, while aware of the situation, looked the other way. The WSJ story recounts the ten year struggle of IRS investigator William Duncan to expose the Mena operation. Despite nine separate federal and state probes, nothing happened. Says Duncan -- who eventually quit in disgust: "The Mena investigations were never supposed to see the light of day." They were "interfered with and covered up, and the justice system was perverted."

1995 - While portions of the Mena affair have been reported elsewhere (including here), the Denton/Morris piece is significant . . . First, it is based on more than 2000 documents from the files of ex-drug smuggler -- and sometime intelligence asset -- the late Barry Seal. . . The Denton/Morris story tells of "literally hundreds of millions of dollars in drug profits" being developed by the Mena operation, of CIA involvement, and of nine different official investigations being stifled under two presidents (Reagan and Bush) and one governor (Clinton). The story does not directly implicate Clinton but raises deep questions. As one law enforcement official noted, Clinton may be the first president to have such close buddies who were targets of intense narcotics investigations. . .

1996 Jim Leach of the House Banking Committee is reported running into stonewalling on the grounds of "national security" as he investigates drug smuggling and money laundering out of Mena, Arkansas. As Insight magazine points out in its January 29 issue, there have been nine separate federal and state probes over the last decade that "have managed to establish that Mena was indeed the center of a brazen narcotics-trafficking operation, but none cast much light on CIA complicity." Says Insight, Leach is "bothered by the signs that serious money laundering took place down there -- that it may be connected to Iran Contra operations is neither here nor there. And if Republicans are also hurt, then the chairman's attitude is, so be it."

1996 The Tampa Tribune has been telling its readers about another ex-Mena CIA operative who backs up stories concerning the Arkansas drug/Contra trade in the 1980s. The ex-agent reports flying into Mena and Little Rock in 1983 and 1984 with larger coolers marked "medical supplies." Who was on hand to pick up these "medical supplies?" According to the ex-agent, none other than several people quite close to then Governor Bill Clinton. . .

1996 - [The press has not] told the public about the existence of a police tape of Roger Clinton describing his own cocaine trafficking and saying of his brother, "Got to get some for my brother; he's got a nose like a vacuum cleaner." And a former informant for a drug task force in Arkansas has told Ambrose Evans-Pritchard of the London Telegraph that she supplied Bill with cocaine during his first terms as governor. On one occasion, according to the woman, "He was so messed up that night, he slid down the wall into a garbage can." . . . She is currently in jail on drug charges because, she claims, she was set up to eliminate her as a political liability. Her appeal went all the way to the Supreme Court.

1996 - At the beginning of his administration Clinton called on the then White House physician, Dr. Burton Lee, to give him an allergy shot. Lee refused to do so without knowing the president's medical history or what was in the serum he was being asked to inject. Within hours of his refusal, Lee was fired and told to pack and leave immediately.

1996 - When Dan Lasater started a bonding company, Bill Clinton recommended to him highway commissioner Patsy Thomasson, who became vice president of the Lasater firm.. Thomasson hired half-brother Roger as a limo driver. Roger was also employed as a stable hand at his Florida farm at the request of either Bill or Virginia Kelly -- Lasater says he can't remember which. When Roger's drug debts got too high, Lasater gave him $8,000 to clear them up.
Lasater began running into trouble in he mid-eighties. There was a big investigation of a major bond issue for state police radios that was thrown Lasater's way. And the feds got on his case for the possession and distribution of cocaine. Lasater was convicted but spent less than half of his 2 1/2 year sentence in jail..

1996 From a police videotape of Roger Clinton during a 1984 cocaine sale, as reported in the just out Partners in Power by Roger Morris: "Got to get some for my brother's. He's got a nose like a vacuum cleaner."

1996 - The White House hosted a major drug dealer at its Christmas party last year. . . Cabrera was indicted in 1983 by a federal grand jury -- on racketing and drug charges -- and again in 1988, when he was accused of managing a continuing narcotics operation. He pleaded guilty to lesser charges and served 54 months on prison. Since his visit to the White House he has been sentenced to 19 years on prison for transporting 6,000 pounds of cocaine into the US.

1996 - Former FBI agent Dennis Sculimbrene, who was stationed at the White House, estimates that "about 25 percent of the incoming [Clinton] administration . . . had a problem with illegal drugs. Not just casual experimentation, but a pattern of usage . . . not just marijuana but cocaine; amphetamines; amphetamine-derived 'designer' drugs such as Ecstasy; hashish; mushrooms." Included among the uses, says Sculimbrene, "senior aides and advisors to the president."

1997 The attack on Starr that followed Woodward's story was elegantly timed and collated. Headlined Time: Has Starr Gone Too Far? The same week in Newsweek: A Starr-crossed probe? Delving into Clinton's alleged sexual past, the special prosecutor ends up embarrassing himself. From US News & World Report's Mortimer Zuckerman: "It is time for the independent counsel to prove his case -- or quit." But none of the major media bothered to suggest why the FBI might have been pursuing its particular line of questioning. For example, during the earlier Whitewater hearings, the GOP counsel had asked Arkansas cocaine figure Dan Lasater about his many visits to the governor's mansion. He cited a trooper deposition that reported Lasaster as a frequent visitor and that no records were kept of his arrival and departure and that he entered through the kitchen area. Another trooper said that Roger Clinton often visited the mansion with women and did drugs there.

1997 - In his book, The Secret Life of Bill Clinton, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard quotes an ex-drug pilot as saying that he once brought a Cesna 210 full of cocaine into eastern Arkansas where he was met by a state trooper in a marked police car. "Arkansas," he said, "was a very good place to load and unload."

1998 - From a recent column by one of the best Clinton scandal investigators, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard of the London Telegraph:

"On my first visits to Arkansas, I could smell that something was wrong. The place reminded me of Central America, a sort of anglophone Guatemala, where a corrupt and violent political machine operated behind the scenes. People dissembled in interviews, instinctively. The deeper I looked, the clearer it became that the Dixie Mafia had a foothold in official Arkansas, and that intimidation was part of the culture.

"Dissident members of the Arkansas State Police provided me with stacks of confidential reports showing that one of Mr Clinton's biggest financial backers during his assent to power . . .had been under investigation for international drug-trafficking. . . .

"One of my first stories was on Sally Perdue, a former Miss Arkansas who claimed to have had an affair with Mr Clinton in 1983. A thug had visited her and offered her the prospect of a high-paying federal job in exchange for silence. If she refused, he warned, "we know you go jogging, and we can't guarantee what will happen to your pretty little legs".

1998- here were another reason the Dan Smaltz probe was important. Back in 1994, Time reported that a senior pilot for Tyson had been grilled for three days by Smaltz and FBI agents about transfers of cash to the governor's mansion. Joe Henrickson claimed to have carried white envelopes containing a quarter-inch stack of $100 bills on six occasions.

Here's how Ambrose Evans-Pritchard describes what happened next:

"In one case, [Henrickson claimed] a Tyson executive handed him an envelope of cash in the company's aircraft hanger in Fayetteville and said, 'This is for Governor Clinton."
"'I nearly fell off my chair when I heard Joe make the allegation. I took over the questions,' Smaltz told Time."

But Smaltz had no authority to investigate Clinton and when he asked Janet Reno for permission she said no. Reno's refusal, along with Starr's mishandling of the Mena drug and Foster death investigations, rank among the biggest scandals that lie within the Whitewater scandal.

1998 Arkansas Highway Police have seized $3.1 million in cash from four suitcases in a tractor-trailer rig's sleeper section. The driver was charged with money laundering among other things. The seizure was the fourth largest in American history and nearly fifty times more than all the illegal money seized by Arkansas highway police in a typical year.

Arkansas, which borders six states and is close to a seventh, has long functioned as a center of narcotics activity. The airport at Mena has been used for major drug trafficking, and sparsely populated areas have proved attractive for "kick drops" in which drug shipments are released from a plane to confederates on the ground who are given the geographical coordinates of the shipment. It has also been alleged that drug money was laundered through the Arkansas Development and Finance Administration, set up by then Governor Clinton and which has been called a piggy bank for his political allies.

1999 - From "Partners in Power" by Roger Morris:

"On November 9, 1984, three days after his half brother's resounding victory at the polls, Roger Clinton was back in court to change his plea to guilty of conspiracy and a single count of drug distribution. . . 'We had a lot more than Roger . . .' said one local officer close to the case. 'But Roger cops out, our narcs get taken out, and the case stops there. . .

"[Key investigators] Duncan and Welch watched the Mena inquiry systematically quashed and their own careers destroyed as the IRS and state police effectively dissolved their investigations and turned on them. 'Somebody outside ordered it shut down,' one would say, 'and the walls went up.' Welch [a state trooper] recorded his fear and disillusion in his diary on November 17, 1987: 'Should a cop cross over the line and dare to investigate the rich and powerful, he might well prepared himself to become the victim of his own government. The cops are all afraid to tell what they know for fear that they will lose their jobs.'"

1999 - BILL DUNCAN: An IRS investigator in Arkansas who drafted some 30 federal indictments of Arkansas figures on money laundering and other charges. Clinton biographer Roger Morris quotes a source who reviewed the evidence: "Those indictments were a real slam dunk if there ever was one." The cases were suppressed, many in the name of "national security." Duncan was never called to testify. Other IRS agents and state police disavowed Duncan and turned on him. Said one source, "Somebody outside ordered it shut down and the walls went up."

1999 - RUSSELL WELCH: A Arkansas state police detective working with Duncan. Welch developed a 35-volume, 3,000 page archive on drug and money laundering operations at Mena. His investigation was so compromised that a high state police official let one of the targets of the probe look through the investigative file. At one point, Welch was sprayed in the face with poison, later identified by the CDC as anthrax. He would write in his diary, "I feel like I live in Russia, waiting for the secret police to pounce down. A government has gotten out of control. Men find themselves in positions of power and suddenly crimes become legal." Welch is no longer with the state police.

1999 - The issue of whether Sharlene Wilson should be released from prison is presently on the Arkansas governor's desk. Wilson is not only a witness with evidence concerning the murders but also alleges to have seen Clinton heavily under the influence of cocaine. During the 1980s, Wilson, according to investigative reporter Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, flew cocaine from Mena to a pickup point in Texas. Other drugs, she and others said, were stuffed into chickens for shipping around the country. Wilson also served as "the lady with the snow" at "toga parties" attended, she reported, by Bill Clinton. In 1990, Wilson told a US grand jury investigating drugs in Arkansas that she provided cocaine to Clinton during his first term and that once the governor was so high he fell into a garbage can. The federal drug investigation was shut down within days of her testimony. Wilson fled, terrified of the state prosecuting attorney -- her former lover, and Clinton ally, Dan Harmon. She was eventually arrested by Harmon himself and sent up for 31 years on a minor drug charge.

Jean Duffey was head of a joint federal-county drug task force in Arkansas. Her first instructions from her boss: "Jean, you are not to use the drug task force to investigate any public official." Her first instructions from her boss: "Jean, you are not to use the drug task force to investigate any public official." Duffey's work, however, led deep into the heart of the Dixie Mafia, including members of the Clinton machine. the local prosecuting attorney, Dan Harmon issued a subpoena for all the task force records, including "the incriminating files on his own activities. If Duffey had complied it would have exposed 30 witnesses and her confidential informants to violent retributions. She refused." Harmon issued a warrant for her arrest and friendly cops told her that there was a $50,000 price on her head. She eventually fled to a secret address in Texas. The once-untouchable Harmon was convicted in June 1997 of five counts of racketeering, extortion and drug dealing.
Of Sharlene Wilson's claims of Clinton drug use, Duffey said, "I have no doubt that she was telling the truth."

2000 - GENNIFER FLOWERS ON THE SEAN HANNITY SHOW: [Clinton] came in one day and told me that Hillary had found out, had heard from some friends that he'd been doing cocaine. And that she said, "Hey, you better stop it." And I said, "Well, what are you going to do?" And he said, "Well, I'm going to stop it." But this wasn't until, I'd say about the mid-80's. So she was aware of his drug problem, as, like I said, as were many others. . . It was very common knowledge in Arkansas by a number of people, including his wife, that he was a user of cocaine . . .

2000 - INSIGHT MAGAZINE: Canadian police have identified Clinton donor and Macao gambling tycoon Stanley Ho as the leader of a triad gang of organized criminals with strong ties to Communist China. President Clinton personally accepted $250,000 from a Macao gambling tycoon whom Canadian police identify as a "leader" of a Chinese triad, or organized-crime syndicate. . . According to a separate Canadian Security Intelligence Service report, the triads are involved in "drug trafficking; money laundering; corruption; computer-software piracy; credit-card forgery and fraud; counterfeit currency and identification operations; and migrant smuggling."

- STEWART TENDLER, TIMES, LONDON: Customs officers have seized nearly $2 million in cash after it was flown into Britain on behalf of Marc Rich, the fugitive billionaire pardoned by Bill Clinton. Mr Rich, whose presidential pardon is under investigation by the FBI, now has to prove that the cash was honestly acquired, or he could lose it. Investigators are holding the cash under powers aimed at preventing drug traffickers moving their profits from country to country. . .

- ROGER MORRIS, GLOBE & MAIL, CANADA: Around the kitchen table, as Virginia Clinton will describe the scene, avid young Billy meets with two of his most crucial early backers -- Uncle Raymond G. Clinton, a prosperous local Buick dealer, and family friend and wealthy businessman Gabe Crawford. As they talk, Mr. Crawford offers the candidate unlimited use of his private plane, and uncle Raymond not only provides several houses around the district to serve as campaign headquarters, but will secure a $10,000 loan to Bill from the First National Bank of Hot Springs -- an amount then equal to the yearly income of many Arkansas families. Together, the money and aircraft and other gifts, including thousands more in secret donations, will launch Mr. Clinton in the most richly financed race in the annals of Arkansas -- and ultimately onto the most richly financed political career in American history . . . No mere businessman with a spare plane, Gabe Crawford presided over a back room bookie operation that was one of Hot Springs' most lucrative criminal enterprises. And the inimitable Uncle Raymond - who had also played a pivotal behind-the-scenes role in keeping young Bill out of the Vietnam draft - was far more than an auto dealer. In the nationally prominent fount of vice and corruption that was Hot Springs from the 1920s to the 1980s (its barely concealed casinos generated more income than Las Vegas well into the 1960s), the uncle's Buick agency and other businesses and real estate were widely thought to be facades for illegal gambling, drug money laundering and other ventures, in which Raymond was a partner. He was a minion of the organized crime overlord who controlled the American Middle South for decades, New Orleans boss Carlos Marcello or "Mafia Kingfish" as his biographer John Davis called him.

2001 - Two Arkansas state troopers swore under oath that they had seen Clinton "under the influence" of drugs when he was governor. Historian Roger Morris, in his book "Partners in Power," quoted several law enforcement officials who claimed to have seen and knew of Clinton's drug use.

2001 - In 1984, a Clinton bodyguard, state trooper L.D. Brown, applied for a CIA opening. Clinton gave him help on his application essay including making it more Reaganesque on the topic of Nicaragua. According to Brown, he met a CIA recruiter in Dallas whom he later identified as former member of Vice President Bush's staff. On the recruiter's instruction, he also met with notorious drug dealer Barry Seal in a Little Rock restaurant, later joining Seal in flight to Honduras with a purported shipment of M16s and a return load of duffel bags. Brown got $2,500 in small bills for the flight.

Concerned about the mission, Brown consulted with Clinton who said, "Oh, you can handle it, don't sweat it." On second flight, Brown found cocaine in a duffel bag and again he sought Clinton's counsel. Clinton allegedly said to the politically conservative Brown, "Your buddy Bush knows about it" and of the cocaine, "that's Lasater's deal."

2001 - Roger Clinton's actions were caught both on videotape and by wired informers, one of whom recorded him negotiating a $10,000 coke deal. . . But the big time drug operative began running into big time trouble. Someone slashed his convertible's roof and stole $8,000 worth of cocaine. His New York and Medillin dealers were on his case and, according to his own and Lasater's later statements to police and FBI, they even threatened his mother and Bill. It was the last thing Bill needed and he got Lasater to provide a haven for Roger at his 1000-acre horse ranch in Ocala FL, where the drug parties and lifestyle continued with more safety. Roger Morris quotes a senior employee at the ranch as saying, "I was told we were stashing him for some politician Mr. Lasater was working."

In 1985, Clinton established the Arkansas Development Finance Authority that would become, in the words of one well-connected Arkansan "his own political piggy bank." Though millions of dollars were funneled to Clinton allies, records of repayments would be hazy or non-existent. . . Later, an investigator found evidence of an electronic transfer of $50 million from the Arkansas Development Financial Authority to a bank in the Cayman Islands. Grand Cayman had a population of 18,000, 570 commercial banks, one bank regulator and a bank secrecy law. It has been a favorite destination spot for laundered drug money.

2001 - In 1989 Terry Reed filed a civil action against Buddy Young, chief of the Clinton security detail and later a top FEMA official. Reed argued that he had been framed after trying to pull away from his involvement in the Iran-Contra machinations. . . One estimate was that ten million dollars were passing through Mena every week. Patterson said the matter was repeatedly discussed in front of Clinton by his bodyguards. Patterson said the governor had "very little comment to make; he was just listening to what was being said." Reed's case unraveled when the state judge ruled that no evidence regarding Mena, the CIA, Dan Lasater, the Arkansas Development Finance Agency, or the Clintons would be permitted.

2001 - Meanwhile, there was a struggle between those trying to quash the growing case against Roger Clinton and Dan Lasater and those trying to make sure it went ahead. In the end, the case was pursued but simultaneously it was ensured that the investigation would go no further. . . One law enforcement official described the investigation into Lasater's operations as "either a high dive or extremely unprofessional. Take your pick." It seems clear to some that the US prosecutor on the case, George Proctor, found it best not to dig too deep. While Lasater was in prison, his affairs were run by Patsy Thomasson, who later would become a White House aide, responsible, among other things, for drug testing. George Proctor would become a high Justice Department official, heading an office that handled, among other things, narcotics and the BCCI case.