Prologue to Boy Clinton
By R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.
Regnery Publishing Inc.Washington D.C.
ARKANSAS STATE TROOPER L. D. Brown had just returned from a mission flown to Central America from Arkansas's Mena Airport in late December 1984. The flight was commanded by pilot Barry Seal, an operative with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and a contract employee with the Central Intelligence Agency.
Seal was also a legendary drug smuggler, known for having flown hundreds of drug-smuggling flights between 1977 and 1983 at low altitude and in complete darkness. (1)
Now, supposedly, he had gone straight. After parachuting arms into the jungle, Seal landed at a sleepy Central American airport. He picked up two duffel bags and flew back to Arkansas. Brown, seated behind him throughout the flight, was moonlighting as a CIA contract employee [see Appendix A, items A, B, and C]. His boss, Governor Bill Clinton, had encouraged and assisted him in his employment at the CIA.
Under the assumption that he was being trained for clandestine operations on this flight, Brown was following Seal's instructions. He was merely an observer, studying the activities of Seal and his crew.
But during this, his most recent flight, what Brown, a seasoned narcotics investigator, was to learn troubled him deeply. Seal was bringing drugs and money back in the duffel bags. Consequently, as soon as Brown returned to Little Rock he approached Clinton and asked, "Do you know what they're bringing back on those planes?" Clinton froze. "They're bringing back coke," Brown told him. In fact "they" were trafficking in cocaine, money, and arms, Clinton's response was blase.
He told Brown not to worry, adding "That's Lasater's deal. That's Lasater's deal.(2)
At the time Dan Lasater, an Arkansas "bond daddy" known for his wide-open parties, was a major Clinton supporter. Clinton's occasional attendance at Lasater's parties had presented his bodyguard, Brown, with problems; in addition to young girls, the parties also included plenty of cocaine.
Brown is unclear as to the rest of Clinton's reply. It was either "And your buddy Bush knows all about it," or "And your hero Bush knows about it." Brown admired President George Bush, having met him in Portland, Maine, while traveling with the governor. After that meeting the two Arkansans visited with the president at his Kennebunkport compound.
Clinton's references to Bush and Lasater added confusion to Brown's anger. Brown was angry after this last flight when Seat showed him cocaine and money that he had just flown into the country. Brown feared that he, a member of the governor's security, was being set up to be blackmailed. Now upon finding out that Clinton knew about the operation, the trooper felt betrayed and a bit stupid. He says that the moment he saw the drugs Lasater's involvement should have "dawned" on him. "I'd never seen the governor around coke," Brown says, "unless he was around Lasater." At Lasater's parties Brown would hustle the governor away when the drugs came out.
Though he had seen Clinton "stoned" he had never actually seen him using drugs. Others have, namely two of Clinton's lovers, Sally Perdue and Gennifer Flowers. Both have attested to Clinton's drug use during assignations.
Feeling angry, betrayed, and played for a fool, Brown left the governor and proceeded directly to a cottage on the mansion grounds where Becky McCoy, his future wife, lived. Listed on the mansion's payroll as a "courier," she was actually Chelsea's nanny. Eleven years after that day Becky remembers Brown's arriving in tears and complaining, "I've been betrayed.(3)
Over the next few months Brown would seek another assignment with the state troopers, but it would take him more than a decade to sort out his involvement and possible culpability as the governor's man on the Mena airport flights.
At the time, 1984, Brown was twenty-eight years old. He was not only Clinton's favorite bodyguard, but also a close friend. The other troopers called him Clinton's "fair-haired boy." He and Clinton shared an interest in books, ideas, and night life.
Brown still has books that Clinton gave him, one being a bar exam study book in which the politician made some ironic underlinings. One passage discussed the deductibility of charitable donations, and another the length of residency required in Washington before tax liability is incurred. Like Clinton, Brown passed through a radical stage when he attended the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. Indeed, when Clinton was a law professor in Fayetteville, Brown was working on an off-campus magazine, the radical Grapevine.
In the autumn of i984, Brown made his first flight with Seal. It was on October 23 or very close to that date, and Brown found himself seated on a bench inside a cavernous C- 123 K cargo plane roaring over a Central American jungle. Seal, who piloted the plane, was one of the greatest daredevil flyers of the day. His C- 1 2 3 K also had a history [see Appendix A, items H and 11.
It was originally an Air Force transport plane. Seal dubbed it "the Fat Lady." He had purchased it from Doan Helicopter, Inc., of Daytona Beach, to which it would eventually be returned; both transactions appear suspicious. The plane would later be serviced and financed by Southern Air Transport, a CIA front company. It is the same C- I 2 3K that was eventually shot down over Nicaragua in a doomed supply effort to the Contras that left an American, Eugene Hasenfus, a prisoner of the Sandinistas and revealed the CIA link to the Contras. The plane's two pilots died.
On the morning of that first particular flight, Seal had told Brown to drive to Mena Intermountain Regional Airport in a remote area near the Oklahoma border. It is a tiny facility, infrequently used, and interesting only for an exceedingly long runway, the kind used by large planes with transcontinental ranges. Brown had expected to find, he says, a Baron or a King Air, small, twin-engined planes in which he had some training as a pilot. He had accompanied the governor on such planes, throughout the state. Instead, he says, he found this "huge military plane" that was not actually a military plane.
It was dark, almost black, and had only the minimal tail markings necessary for civilian operation. The C-123K is a military transport with twin engines, and Seal's had a tailgate at the end of its fuselage capable of loading such cargo as a small automobile.
Inside the plane, according to Brown, were another pilot and two "beaners"-common laborers who looked like Central American Indians. Later Brown would come to know them as "kickers," for they "kicked" cargo from the plane. All were wearing jeans, tshirts, and sneakers. Seal, Brown says, had prescribed the dress code and insisted that no one carry identification, not even keys or jewelry. To Brown's surprise Seal even asked about his shoes. They had to be untraceable.
When Brown got on the plane, Seal's co-pilot was at its controls fiddling with gauges and making notes. Then Seal started the engines, and Brown remembers, "This fuckin', excuse me, I mean just thunderous noise. Scared the shit out of me just taking off." Brown says that when the plane took off, he was sitting on a bench behind the two pilots. The "kickers" were seated far to the back of "this shell of a plane" where there were pallets on casters. On the pallets were stacked crates, partially covered by a tarpaulin.
After it left Mena, the plane made a refueling stop-"Nobody got off," Brown says-and then resumed flight. The stop was at Stennis Airfield in Gulfport, Mississippi, an airfield frequently used by the DEA.4 Once back in the air Brown recalls, Seal startled him by yelling, "Well, you all hang on." The plane dropped to what Brown calls "an altitude a hell of a lot lower than what you'd think you'd fly." He suspected Seal was trying to evade radar. Soon, he says, they regained altitude, but then they descended again and "that's when these two crazy bastards get these pallets and roll them on casters."
Parachutes opened from the cargo on the pallets. Later Seal confirmed Brown's suspicions: the pallets carried M- 16s for the Contras. It is unclear whether they ever got to the Contras. Seal seems to have had equally cordial relations with the Cali Cartel and the Sandinistas. He proved to be a very unreliable government employee.
Approximately thirty minutes later, Brown says, the C-123K landed in what he later thought was Tegucigalpa, Honduras, though my investigations leave me doubtful that this was their Central American landing site. After landing, the plane was refueled. While Seal and the kickers went to collect Seal's duffel bags, Brown and the co-pilot, who never exchanged more than a few words, remained on board. Then, Brown says, Seal and the kickers returned, carrying four bags. Brown says he never saw the bags again.
Once back on the ground at Mena, Brown says, he told Seal he had anticipated flying in a plane similar to those that he had been on with the governor. Seal, he says, laughed, and told Brown that all he had wanted him to do was "sit back for the ride." Then he paid Brown for the flight, handing him an envelope with $2,500 in cash-"not marked money, not banded money, just twenties, fifties, mostly twenties, used money, like you just went out and spent."
When Brown returned to the Governor's Mansion after this first flight he recalls, Clinton greeted him jovially, "You having any fun yet?" Clinton had been asking him variations of that question since the previous spring when he began encouraging Brown to apply for a job with the CIA. Indeed, Clinton had taken an active role in helping Brown.
He told Brown he had acquaintances in the CIA who could expedite his application. As part of the application process, Brown had written an essay: "Marxist Influence in Central America." Three early drafts of the essay contain interpolations in Clinton's handwriting, the authenticity of which has been verified. Clinton also suggested that Brown study Russian, a suggestion Brown took seriously enough to be in attending night classes at the University 91 of Arkansas at Little Rock. He began making entries in his daybook in Cyrillic. Clinton, Brown believed, was familiar with the CIA.
He occasionally spoke of a college classmate who had ended up working there. The governor also talked as though he knew of ongoing operations nearby. "When I got back from that first trip he knew I had been out doing something," although Brown had not had a chance to tell Clinton "anything about it. That's when he said, 'You having any fun yet?"'
The CIA does not talk about these things, so we may never know whether Brown was actually a CIA employee or being deceived into thinking that he was. Whatever the case, he had good reason to believe that he was in the CIA's employ. It may also never be known for sure whether CIA officials approved or knew of Seal's activities.
Some facts, however, are indisputable. Entries in Brown's daybook indicate his flights. A month before his October flight the Southwest personnel representative for the CIA, Ken Cargile, in a letter to Brown, wrote that "I am pleased to nominate you for employment with the Central Intelligence Agency." Another entry in Brown's daybook indicates that he had met with another CIA representative only a few days before.
Brown has identified him as Dan Magruder and says that he spoke admiringly of Clinton. Magruder, Brown says, asked him if he would be interested in paramilitary, counterintelligence, and narcotics." Brown, who had worked in narcotics enforcement as a police officer, said he was interested. He then, he says, signed a secrecy agreement and was told he would be contacted further.
Finally, there was a very suggestive call that Governor Clinton made to Becky (McCoy) Brown after she married Brown. It came a half year after Brown's last flight. It was summer, and Becky had announced that she was leaving the mansion staff. Clinton was livid. In this call he insisted that she stay, and then he reminded her of the help he had given Brown in "getting into the CIA."
In Dallas, Magruder told Brown that a contact would be made after he returned to Arkansas. Next Cargile sent him his letter of nomination. Then Seal called him at home and set up a meeting at Cajun's Wharf, a popular Little Rock watering hole. Bill McKuen, former secretary of state of Arkansas, has told Danny Harkins, senior criminal investigator for the state of Arkansas, that he remembers seeing Seal and Brown together at Cajun's wharf in 1984. Seal, according to Brown, was familiar with the biographical information Brown had given the agency, thus reassuring Brown that he was the CIA contact Magruder had told him to expect. Seal was not, however, what Brown was expecting from the CIA.
Magruder had been a "clean cut Ivy League-looking guy." Seal was "a very distinctive guy. I mean, a nut, big guy. And you never forget this kind of guy. Robust, devil-may-care, kind of, you know, dangerous."
If Seal's appearance and demeanor were not what Brown had come to expect from the "Ivy League" CIA, his conversation was reassuring. Brown says he talked knowledgeably about airplanes and spoke of an "operation" he was planning. He also referred to Clinton, familiarly, as "the guy." He talked as though "the guy" knew all about the CIA operation going on in Arkansas. Brown theorizes that Seal "needed all the help he could get."
Trafficking in drugs, weapons, and currency often attracts unwanted attention. The more people around Clinton whom Seal might compromise, the less likely Clinton and other Arkansas authorities might be to sacrifice Seal in time of danger. Brown believes that this is why Seal eventually showed him that kilo of cocaine.
Also, Brown would have made an excellent lieutenant for Seal who was always in need of competent hands. Brown adds that, "the more people close to Clinton that he [Seal] could get working with him, the more comfortable he'd feel." When Seal was sentenced for drug dealing in 1985 and again in early 1986 his activities at Mena were never mentioned.
Brown's break with Clinton came after Brown made what he says was his second flight from Mena to Central America on or about December 24, 1984. Becky Brown remembers the date of the flight vividly. Her brother, Read, was dying, and she was surprised Brown left town. He and her brother had been close.
During that second flight two duffel bags were put on board the plane at what Seal identified as Tegucigalpa. Back at Mena, Brown says, he and Seal walked to Brown's car, a Datsun hatchback, and Seal put one of the duffel bags under the hatchback. Then both men got into the front seat of the car, and Seal reached back into the duffel bag, and pulled out a manila envelope with $2,500 in it.
He said the money had been brought back from Tegucigalpa. Brown considered this a currency violation. The next thing Seal pulled from his duffel bag was an even graver breach of the law, that kilo of cocaine.
That was it for Brown. He got upset. He says he feared he was being set up-made a conspirator in an operation he despised. He told Seal he wanted no part of what was happening; then he left.
When he returned to Little Rock, he called his brother Dwayne. Dwayne Brown says his brother seemed "terribly upset." Dwayne immediately drove over to the Governor's Mansion to meet him. Like Becky, Dwayne Brown says he knew his brother had made some unexplained trips out of the country. He suspected a CIA involvement, although his brother did not confirm it. But when he asked his brother,
"Who's pushing this?" his brother, Dwayne, Brown says, "nodded over toward the Governor's Mansion." From then on, until he left Clinton's security detail in June, Dwayne Brown says, his brother was in "a high level of despair." He says he feared his brother might be suicidal.(5)
Meanwhile, Brown confronted Clinton, asking him if he knew that Seal was dealing in drugs and unreported currency. That was when Clinton told him not to worry-"That's Lasater's deal. That's Lasater's deal." Lasater was well known to Brown. As early as 1982, his firm had been censured by Arkansas's security commissioner for cheating customers, which did not end or even impair his relationship with Clinton.
By 1984-the time of the Seal flights-Lasater was contributing to Clinton's political campaigns. He was also providing Clinton with the use of a private airplane and entertaining him at various places, including his New Mexico resort, Angel Fire.
He hired Clinton's brother, Roger, and helped him pay off a $20,000 cocaine debt. Later Roger was imprisoned for his dealings with a cocaine ring. As for Lasater, he was sentenced to two years in jail for dealings with the same ring and lost his state securities license. After six months in prison he got out on probation.
Eventually Clinton pardoned him, claiming that the pardon was necessary to enable Lasater to renew his hunting license.(6)
Clinton's relationship with Lasater was obviously risky. It might still prove to be criminal. When Lasater went to prison his operations were taken over by an associate, Patsy Thomasson. She was a politically active Arkansan whose employment with Lasater was to last nearly a decade, despite his problems with the law and with drugs. DEA documents in my possession show her flying with him on one of his private planes to Belize on February 8, I 984, where he was interested in buying a ranch that was a known drug trafficking point [see Appendix A, item G].
In I993 she joined the White House where she has served as White House director of the Office of Administration and later deputy director of Presidential Personnel. The night of Deputy White House Counsel Vince Foster's death she was one of the trusted Clinton aides who entered Foster's office to spirit away documents.
As for Lasater, by the mid- 1980s he had become involved in several shaky savings and loans, at least one of which, First American Savings & Loan of Oak Brook, Illinois, had its difficulties with Lasater negotiated by the bank's legal team of Vince Foster, Webster Hubbell, and Hillary Rodham Clinton of Little Rock's Rose Law Firm, much to Lasater's satisfaction.
Apparently the thrift was unaware of the relationship its own legal team enjoyed with Lasater. Though the thrift had sought millions, it ended up settling for $200,000.(7)
Drug trafficking was linked to Arkansas throughout the 1980s, occasionally to Clinton's friends and supporters. An investigator wrote in the minutes of a Resolution Trust Corporation meeting held on June 29, 1994, that Lasater "may have been establishing depository accounts at Madison and other financial institutions and laundering drug money through them via brokered deposits and bond issues.(8)
Among the "other financial institutions" Lasater has been linked to is the Arkansas Development Finance Authority created by Governor Clinton. In 1994 when Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy resigned owing to allegations that he was accepting gifts from the Arkansas poultry tycoon, Don Tyson, London's Sunday Telegraph published a story based on numerous state and federal police documents showing that Tyson was "under suspicion of drug dealing from the early 1970s until the late 1980s" by such diverse organizations as the Arkansas State Police and the DEA.(9) No charges were ever filed.
Still the most serious information on drug trafficking in Clinton's Arkansas has come from Brown. His revelations were first published in the American Spectator in the summer Of 1995, and though objected to by President Clinton they have never been disproved. After splitting with Clinton, Brown spent the next few years investigating white-collar crime for the Arkansas State Police. He says that he became increasingly interested in going public with his knowledge of the Mena operation, but that he was mindful of the secrecy document that he had signed.
Moreover, with officials at both the state and federal level involved, he did not know whom to tell. Eventually, it was the Clintons' heavy-handed incompetence in trying to control another damaging story involving Brown that led Brown to tell his story to me.
In the April-May 1994 issue of the American Spectator, Brown was quoted as saying that Lieutenant Governor Jim Guy Tucker had asked him and trooper Larry Patterson for compromising information on Clinton's private life in 1990. When Tucker became aware of Brown's revelation, he retaliated against Brown by demoting him from white-collar investigations to highway patrol. "I don't want to be getting any more reports from Brown" is the statement by Tucker that Colonel Tommy Goodwin, the former head of the Arkansas State Police, quoted in explaining the demotion to me in an interview.(10)
Brown believed the demotion to be illegal because he was at the time working on a case that could have implicated Tucker.
An indignant Brown began toying with the idea of exposing the corruption of Arkansas politics. About this time, the special prosecutor investigating Whitewater subpoenaed Brown to disclose what he knew about Clinton' connections to a Whitewater figure, David L. Hale. Clinton was supposed to have pressured Hale, the head of an Arkansas lending agency, into making illegal loans to Susan McDougal, the Clintons' Whitewater real estate partner.
Brown's subpoena convinced him that "everything is going to come out." Nonetheless, he still seemed reluctant to disclose all he knew. The irony is that he might have remained silent about Mena had not Clinton's imprudent intervention provoked Brown into coming out into the open.
In the fall of 1994 ABC News interviewed Brown, principally about Hale. But the White House panicked, assuming that the interview was about Mena. And Clinton set out to malign Brown. White House officials, as well as Clinton's lawyer, David Kendall, who according to Time was "working very, very hard to keep Whitewater out of the headlines," (11) approached ABC with numerous false allegations against Brown.
Meanwhile, Betsey Wright, a Clinton political fixer and his former chief of staff, told ABC that Brown was a "pathological liar," even though his personnel file in Arkansas abounded with recommendations-some from Clinton and even one from Dr. Joycelyn Elders. ABC was also told that Brown had failed a psychological test. Goodwin assured me and ABC that Brown had passed it.(12) But of the charges leveled at Brown by the White House, the most unintentionally revealing was that Brown had flunked a CIA examination in the mid-1980s.
That charge could only have come from the man--then-Governor Clinton-- who knew that his former bodyguard had had dealings with the CIA a decade before.
An ABC producer told me at the time that "Brown is telling the truth. You can trust him." Nonetheless the network apparently yielded to White House pressure. The interview with Brown, in which he had spoken mostly about Hale and not about Mena, was killed. Brown's patience was now strained beyond endurance. He decided to talk to me about Mena.
Clinton's position has always been that he knew nothing substantial about Mena and that the "state really had next to nothing to do with it.... We had nothing-zero-to do with it, and everybody who's ever looked into it knows that."(13) Brown says he is lying. His daybook records one visit to Mena by Clinton on May 21, 1984, and he says that he accompanied Clinton to Mena on several other occasions.
Clinton claimed in a rare reference to Mena late in the 1980s that he was unaware of any problem at Mena until 1988. But a 1991 deposition by Betsey Wright reveals that the governor's office had in the early 1980s received repeated calls about drug trafficking there. In fact, in 1991 Governor Clinton revealed that a state police investigation had discovered drug "linkages to the federal government." He mentioned the CIA.(14)
Given the remoteness of Mena it is curious that the governor would be showing up there so frequently in the mid- 1980s. The airport is small and handles little traffic. The town itself is sleepy and extremely rural. Its voter turnout is, perhaps, the lowest in the state. Clinton could not have been stopping by the airport for political purposes. Since Clinton's election as president, moreover, others have come forward to implicate him in Mena. Arkansas State Trooper Bobby Walker has told me that "sometime in the mid1980s" he was at Mena with Clinton.
Walker said a "huge darkgreen military plane" was parked there and that when he expressed surprise at seeing a military plane at Mena, Clinton said it was not military; it served another purpose.
In March 1995, in a legally binding deposition, Trooper Larry Patterson also said that Clinton knew about Mena. Patterson said he had overheard conversations about "large quantities of drugs being flown into Mena airport, large quantities of guns, that there was an ongoing operation training foreign people in the area." When asked, "Were any of these conversations in the presence of Governor Bill Clinton?" he replied: "Yes, sir."
Patterson was being deposed in a legal suit filed against Buddy Young, the former head of Clinton's security detail, by Terry Reed, who says he trained Contra pilots, under Seal's supervision, at Nella, Arkansas.
In another deposition in the case, John Bender, a mechanic, says he saw Clinton at Mena three times in the summer of 1985. There were no local dignitaries present, Bender says, and Clinton did not seem to be taking part in any official function. Bender says that Clinton arrived in a Beech aircraft and was still there when Bender left for the day. Clinton's stays lasted for hours.
During his deposition Bender was shown a photograph of Buddy Young. He identified him as "Captain Buddy Young-that little beady-faced fellow," and said that Young was with Clinton at Mena. Young has since been made head of the Federal Emergency Management Administration in Denton, Texas. In another deposition in the Reed case, Russell Welch, an Arkansas state police investigator who has investigated Mena extensively, says that Young asked him in 1992 if Clinton's name had ever come up in connection with Mena.
Welch said it had not, but Young's concern is intriguing.
At this juncture, no one, including Brown, can say precisely what Clinton was doing at Mena. Brown's role, after all, was quite limited. In early 1985, after Brown told Seal-and Clinton-that he would no longer take part in the drug flights, Seal contacted Brown again. Encouraging Brown to continue working with him, Seal said, "There's good money to be had."
But Brown said he was out of that game for good. Brown was not going to have anything to do with drug shipments. He was not, however, done with the CIA.
In January 1985 while Brown was on duty at the Governor's Mansion he was paid a visit by a man he believed to be another contract employee of the CIA, Felix Rodriguez, alias Max Gomez. Before visiting Brown at the mansion, Rodriguez telephoned Brown while he was on duty there. Later he drove over, entering through the compound's back gate. His familiarity with the place surprised Brown.
In the following months Brown concluded that Rodriguez must have known Clinton and was in continuing contact with him. Eventually Clinton made it clear to Brown that he knew Rodriguez. On the occasion of this first meeting with Brown it seems that Rodriguezs mission was to placate Brown. He wanted Brown to work with him on clandestine operations, but he wanted to reassure Brown that no more "monkeying around with Seal would be involved." At Rodriguezs mention of Seal, Brown explained, "I have had some bad experiences." Rodriguez responded, "Don't worry about Barry....
We're going to take care of that." He also told Brown he would "take care of things" with Clinton. Apparently he did. Clinton never talked to Brown about Mena or Lasater again.
Rodriguez said he was beginning a new operation and wanted Brown with him. Aware of how Seal's drug trafficking had compromised him, Brown was uneasy. Rodriguez attempted to propitiate him. He offered to get Brown another meeting with Magruder. Rodriguez talked of his friendship with two men Brown admired from his training days in narcotics work, Nick Navarro and Raul Diaz.
The combination of Rodriguezs persuasiveness, Brown's continuing interest in a career in intelligence work, and the prospect of earning $1,000 for each mission convinced Brown to join Rodriguez in his new operation. It involved guarding the transshipment of weapons from the Caribbean to Central America'. From what he saw on these missions Brown believed the shipments included AK-47s and explosives meant for the Contras.
The missions took place in 1985. During that year Brown's contact with Rodriguez was sporadic and by telephone. But Brown was confident that Rodriguez was his CIA contact. His confidence was bolstered when Rodriguez suggested they enroll Brown in a medical school in Montserrat. The purpose, Brown thought, was to establish cover for his further intelligence operations. Rodriguez also talked with Brown about
Seal, saying Seal had gotten "out of hand." On one occasion Brown expressed apprehensions to Rodriguez about Seal's co-pilot on their flights out of Mena. Brown feared exposure. Rodriguez responded, "Don't worry about it. We're going to take care of him. We're going to take care of all of it." Brown did not know the pilot's identity or his whereabouts, but in 1986, on February ig, Seal was shot dead as he entered a halfway house in Louisiana. Three Colombians eventually were arrested and convicted of the murder.
The Louisiana attorney general has estimated to the Justice Department that Seal had "smuggled between $3 billion and $5 billion in drugs into the U.S."
In May of 1986, after Seal's death, Brown got another call from
Rodriguez. "You hear about our man?" he asked. Brown had indeed heard of Seal's murder in Baton Rouge. "Well, we know who was flying in the second seat." Brown interpreted this remark to mean, "It's like we're going to eliminate everybody." Brown went on to relate that Rodriguez "talked about Clinton... and gave me the impression they were going to do something to his ass."
His impression from this conversation with Rodriguez was that Rodriguez's employer had been embarrassed by the drug trafficking that Seal and perhaps Clinton had mixed into the Mena resupply operations. Now they were going to kill "anybody that apparently had anything to do with what happened over at Mena." Brown began to fear for Clinton's life-though critical of Clinton's character and reckless improprieties, Brown obviously still harbored affecdon for his friend from the exciting days of the early 1980s.
After Rodriguezs May telephone call, he sent Brown a manual for a light automatic rifle, a Belgian-made F.A.L. Brown still has the manual. The official title of the gun as referred to in the manual is "FN Light Automatic Rifle, caliber 7.62mm. NATO." The gun is usually known as the "F.A.L." Rodriguez told Brown to fly to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where he would carry out a plan to kill the man he was led to believe was Seal's co-pilot.
With his wife, Becky, to serve as cover Brown flew to Puerto Vallarta on June 18, 1986, on American Airlines flights 537 and 535 [see Appendix A, item E]. A guard standing by the guard house of the port's naval installation gave Brown the F.A.L. It was disassembled in a straw bag which explains why Rodriguez sent Brown the manual.
Using the alias Michael Johnson, a name he had used in undercover work in Arkansas, Brown was to proceed to the Hotel Playa Conchas Chinas on the morning of June 21. There he was to identify himself as Johnson to the hotel clerk and give him $50. The clerk would direct him to his target. All went according to plan until the clerk pointed out Brown's prospective victim.
The victim did not look at all like Seal's co-pilot. Brown left the hotel, ditched the gun, and flew back on American Airlines flights 292 and 512. The man he had been set up to kill was, according to Rodriguez, Terry Reed, the very same man Seal had been working with in training the Contras and the man who in 1991 was to file the aforementioned lawsuit against Buddy Young alleging that Young had "manufactured, altered, tampered with and/or removed evidence, all in the pursuit of advancing a wrongful criminal indictment."
Reed believes that Young, the head of Governor Bill Clinton's security detail, set him up in 1987 to be killed. Young has admitted to authoring a national police profile saying that Reed was armed and dangerous and known to use a concealed weapon.
Brown did not know anything about Reed until 1995. Upon returning to Little Rock he received a call from Rodriguez who wanted to arrange an appointment. Rodriguez was en route to Washington but would fly down to Little Rock on his way home. Brown said no. He wanted nothing more to do with Rodriguez.
These last revelations of Brown's are now documented. His airplane tickets were purchased in late May. I have photocopies of them in my files. The date of purchase is May 27. I have seen the F.A.L. manual. Copies of Brown's map from Puerto Vallarta and copies of documents in which the Arkansas State Revenue Department lists Brown's alias, Michael Johnson, are also in my possession. Brown had used that alias in undercover police work and had an Arkansas driver's license under that name.
Reed too has inadvertently provided evidence supporting Brown's revelations. Without knowing anything about Brown, Reed wrote a book chronicling his misadventures with the CIA and with Arkansas officials while training Contras. The book implicates Clinton in Mena and places Reed in Puerto Vallarta. Oblivious of the fate that was awaiting him at the Hotel Playa Conchas Chinas, Reed reports that he was told to be at the hotel on June 21 to meet his new CIA handler. The man who ordered him there was Felix Rodriguez, known to Reed as Maximo Gomez.
Rodriguez somewhat imprudently has also written a book about his life, Shadow Warrior. In it he mentions Navarro and Diaz, saying he knew them as investigators in south Florida. He mentions traveling to Washington, at precisely the time Brown says he traveled there, June 1986. On June 25 he met with Ollie North. Of course, North was the National Security Council aide engaged in resupplying the Contras. (15), (16)
Brown has two more revelations. Though he left the govemor's security detail in June 1985, he obviously continued to have numerous encounters with Clinton. Just before he went down to Puerto Vallarta thinking he was being sent by the CIA to kill one of the last living figures associated with Mena, he told Clinton what their acquaintance Rodriguez had put him up to.
According to Brown, he encountered Clinton, probably at the Capitol, and told him, "I'm going to take care of that problem in Mexico." Clinton acted as though he were aware of the mission, saying, "Oh, that's good, that's good, L.D." Looking back on that exchange, Brown believes Clinton also knew the identity of Brown's quarry, Reed.
Brown's second revelation is that during the Iran-Contra hearings he discovered the real identity of Dan Magruder, the CIA official whom he met in Dallas on August 30, 1984, and whose name Rodriguez invoked in persuading Brown to undertake their Caribbean operation.
Brown says he was actually Donald P. Gregg, at the time Vice President George Bush's national security adviser. Brown explains that he became aware of Magruder's real identity during the television coverage of Iran-Contra. The Donald Gregg appearing on screen and being accused of associating with one Felix Rodriguez in the Contra resupply operation looked and sounded to Brown like Dan Magruder.
Corroborating evidence that Gregg was involved with arming the Contras has been mounting for years. The stories began when Iran-Contra broke. They continued when Gregg's nomination as ambassador to South Korea came before the Senate early in the Bush presidency. Of particular interest during those hearings was Gregg's relationship with a CIA operative long famed for his daring anticommunist operations, Rodriguez. Gregg did not deny their friendship.(17)
The Magruder whom Brown met in Dallas talked of his prior service in and extensive knowledge of Korea [see Appendix A, item D]. He told Brown that he was an "Asian expert." Gregg, it turns Out, was CIA station chief in Seoul in the 1970s. Now two intelligence agents have come forward and confirmed that Gregg used the name Magruder while assisting in arming the Contras in the early 1980s in Florida and California.
Finally, remember Clinton's remark after Brown's last flight with Seal, "and your buddy Bush knows all about it." Were Clinton and Bush both politically exposed on Mena? This might explain one of the mysteries of the 1992 campaign, the mildness of the famously competitive George Bush and his refusal to attack Clinton where the challenger was most vulnerable-character. Some political observers have speculated that Bush's Graves' disease explains his listless campaign.
Others have claimed that Bush lost his relish for political life.
An alternative explanation might be that both men had a tacit agreement not to get personal, owing to their exposure on Mena. But there is no evidence that Bush or one of his financial supporters was involved in drug trafficking at Mena. Clearly Clinton had more to fear from Mena than Bush, which suggests a tantalizing detail: Might Clinton have hoodwinked Bush into a tacit agreement that lost Bush the election?
Looking back on his years of service with Clinton, Brown recalls contacts between the two men that, given the Clintons' remoteness from Washington, were unusually frequent and cordial. Bush and Reagan were hated by Hillary, Brown says, but not by Clinton.
When Brown's revelations about Mena were published in the American Spectator in the summer of 1995 they met with mixed reaction. The Wall Street Journal's lead editorial pronounced: "Mena cries out for investigation. A congressional committee with resources, subpoena power and the perseverance displayed by some past chairmen should look into this. If some chips fall on the Republican side, so be it. Important questions need to be answered."(18)
Other Journalists for the most part ignored the story though they had previously vowed that if a Clinton bodyguard ever came forward with claims of serious wrongdoing by Clinton, as opposed to mere adultery and satyriasis, they would investigate to the utmost.
Finally, there was a handful of journalists who set out to expose Brown as a fraud. I have in my files a cocky letter from one on the letterhead of a major news organization ridiculing Brown's assertions about flying with Seal and, incidentally, erroneously observing that Seal died in January rather than February.
That Brown's story stands unimpeached must give him great satisfaction. For over a decade he had lived in fear. He feared that his flights with Seal implicated him in a conspiracy to import cocaine. As people whom he had known at Mena disappeared or died violently he began to fear for his life. And as mentioned a few paragraphs back, he even feared for Clinton's life.
While I was encouraging Brown to reveal his story to me and later while I was encouraging him to go public with it, I never quite understood the intensity of these fears until he revealed to me his dealings with Rodriguez.
In my journalistic life I have not had to deal with many desperate men. Documents revealing drug dealing, gun running, intelligence gathering cloak-and-dagger operations, and ultimately murder do not make amusing reading. As I have mentioned earlier, we might never know for sure what took place at Mena or who the principal players were.
Yet there is a serious policy issue involved when government intelligence services link up with unsavory types and lose control of their operation. Further research into Mena leads me to believe that Seal's drug dealing might have been going on independent of and perhaps even unknown to the CIA.
In fact it is possible that the CIAs dealings with him were not terribly close and that the guns that he dropped were going to the Sandinistas rather than the Contras, or perhaps even to Colombian drug tycoons. Possibly Rodriguez was not even working that closely with the CIA but with others, for instance with North and Gregg, who had really lost control of their operation.
I have gathered information that sketches several agencies working with varying degrees of responsibility at Mena. In the early 1980s it appears that to avoid prosecution for international drug trafficking, Seal approached the Drug Enforcement Administration, offering to serve as an informant. The DEA eventually used him on three counternarcotics operations.
Through a government register, the National Source Register, our intelligence agencies became aware of him. They knew of his easy aerial access to Central and South America. By 1983 Washington had become concerned about the possible presence of Soviet-made missiles in Nicaragua and even the possibility that the Soviet Union might have nuclear weapons there.
The National Security Agency (NSA), which monitors such foreign activity, needed low-flying airborne platforms like Seal's drug flights on which to place the sophisticated devices that would detect nuclear weapons in a place such as Nicaragua.
The CIA recruited Seal to undertake these flights. The CIA provided the front for dealing with Seal while the NSA equipped Seal's C- 123K with the required gadgetry. The plane was equipped with very sophisticated Nuclear Detection Devices manufactured by EG&G in Las Vegas, a highly classified Department of Defense contractor.
The NSA fabricated a TOP SECRET specially compartmented program for all electronic collection directed against the Sandinista government. The program was called "RAPPORT." When I filed a Freedom of Information request to the Pentagon it went immediately to NSA without any urging from me.
Owing to Seal's status as a CIA asset, Customs and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) could allow Seal to leave and enter the country without inspection. For security reasons the NSA barred Customs from inspecting Seal's plane. He was free to return from his flights south with small duffel bags of drugs. All the NSA wanted was its intelligence data tapes. Seal duped all these government agencies until someone put an end to his duplicity.
But to return to Brown's revelations about Clinton at Mena.
One might wonder why the governor of Arkansas would want one of his top security guards on the Mena flights. The answer seems obvious to anyone who has studied Clinton's behavior. Were the Mena operation exposed, Clinton could claim that he had a top state trooper with experience in narcotics investigations flying surveillance.
When Brown's story was published in the August 1995 issue of the American Spectator I was unable to get an official White House response. More surprising was the silence of all major news organization except for the Wall Street journal and the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. For years journalists, most notably on the Left, had been on to Mena. Now a conservative was validating at least some of what the Left had suspected. As for Brown, major news organizations had been after him for months, suspecting that he knew something portentous about Mena.
Once the story broke their calls to him petered out. Unlike the aftermath of the troopers' revelations about Clinton's sex life, when he found himself peppered with journalists' inquiries day after day, the president never had to face similar inquiries from the press about this far more serious matter.
Thus one can imagine my delight on the evening of July 17, a week after publication of the August Spectator, when the president entered the dining room of Washington's Jockey Club. I was seated a few feet away with my fourteen-year-old daughter, Annie, and her young friend, Zana Arafat. Finally I would get the official White House response to the L. D. Brown story and from the White House's top official-all in the comfort of Washington's finest eatery.
The president proceeded to a table in the back of the restaurant where fifteen old friends greeted him. Upon meticulous reflection and with the principia of Miss Manners in mind I asked the maitre d' to tell the president that "Mr. Tyrrell of the American Spectator" would like to send over a bottle of champagne.
The Secret Service, of course, had to be consulted, but apparently the president was pleased. A beaming maitre d' returned to tell me that "President Clinton" would like to thank me after my meal, but, she advised, there were fifteen people in the president's party. "Two bottles," I insisted. My generosity is the stuff of legends.
Frankly I was rather surprised by the president's response. Since late 1993 when the American Spectator's Troopergate stories began detailing the scortatory side of Clinton's life, I had personally overseen an investigative team of journalists that both in Arkansas and Washington had turned up reports of conflicts of interest and abuse of power (for instance, David Brock's piece on Travelgate), and campaign irregularities, such as using "walking around money" to buy votes and filing false financial papers. We had reported real estate shenanigans, banking scams, and sharp tax filings that revealed the Clintons taking deductions on such piffles as the president's underwear.
Yet I should not have been all that surprised. For over two years I had been doing research on the Clintons for this book.
Clinton is a very reckless man, and he has many quirks, one of which makes him a tireless schmoozer. Down in Arkansas it was known that if there was one person at a party who, he felt, disliked him he would spend the entire party heaving himself at the skeptic. The evening of July 17, 1995 was my turn.
As we were almost finished with our meal when I sent over the champagne, I soon notified the maitre d' that we were ready to accept the president's gratitude. Past a wall of security and through a corridor of flunkies we were lead. The Clintons were seated at one long table with their guests and fifteen tiny servings of champagne. Large and amiable, the president rose from his chair to greet us. He was all smiles; Mrs. Clinton, seated across from him, was less joyous.
"And so we meet," I said. He joked, shook my hand, and immediately turned the charm on my daughter and Zana. He asked the girls their ages. He spoke of Chelsea's- summer camp. Out of the corner of my eye I espied an increasingly uneasy Hillary.
Time might be running out. Her eyes put me in mind of a snake about to strike.
Quickly I made my move for the White House's official response to the L. D. Brown-Mena story. Reminding the president of my respect for the Clintons' characteristically 1960s trait of "talking and talking" and debating every issue, I briskly addressed the issue of the moment. "What did you think of the L. D. Brown story?" I asked.
He reddened. He ignited.
He denied that he had read the piece. He said I should be "ashamed" of publishing it. "Lies, lies," he intoned indignantly. The flunkies stiffened. The president's next charges were curiously familiar. He called Brown a "pathological liar" who had tried to destroy his own family. Those were precisely the lines that the White House's operatives had employed months before against Brown to kill ABCs interview with him.
I replied that the president's hometown paper, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, had just described Brown as a very credible witness who had never yet been caught in a lie. The president began reiterating his charges. I mentioned that it seemed to me he had read our piece. He continued with his charges and showed no sign of breaking off what was becoming an increasingly uncomfortable conversation.
Surely, I thought, he will wheel on me and, as the sophisticates say, "cut" me. But, no, he continued to sputter and to whine.
This too was what Arkansans had told me to expect. There stood this large man surrounded by bodyguards. His presence, however, was completely without force. The president was angry. His voice was labored. Yet this was anger without force.
What came to mind was not the anger of a statesman, but rather Tinkerbell in a snit. I made my conges. Mrs. Clinton might join in, and I would be guilty of having placed young girls in harm's way.
The next day, when the press began inquiring about my presidential summit at the Jockey Club, I pooh-poohed the whole thing.
Tim Watters, the leading impersonator of Bill Clinton, was a friend of mine. I insisted that it was Watters whom I had encountered the night before. Surely the president of the United States does not accept champagne in a restaurant. The man I had met was an impostor, but a pretty good one.