Can You Handle the Truth About Government Corruption in Mena?

A Real Movie About Drug Smuggling, Money Laundering & Gun Running in Arkansas will Never make it to the Big Screen!

As government corruption plays out on TV day in and day out and we see the duplicity of the American Justice System,  maybe it’s time for a deep dive into probably the biggest and most far reaching episode of government turning a blind eye to high crimes in the history of America and certainly in the history of Arkansas.

Exactly three months after Arkansas State Police Investigator Russell Welch gave his Mena Drug Smuggling and Money Laundering Deposition in the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office, he met with IRS Investigator Bill Duncan to write a report on their investigation and send it to Iran-Contra prosecutor Lawrence Walsh. Investigator Welch had been ordered by Major Doug Stephens to meet with Duncan over the weekend in Arkansas Attorney General Winston Bryant’s office. Welch had just opened a case concerning the theft of sexually explicit photographs which could have been used to blackmail state officials. On Friday, September 20, Welch went to one of the prisons near Pine Bluff and interviewed the person who had actually taken the photographs, a person whose best friend was very close to Barry Seal. The next morning, Saturday, he and his wife, Debbie Welch, made the three-hour drive to Little Rock.

Returning to Mena on Sunday, Welch told his wife that he didn’t feel too well. He thought he had gotten the flu. Monday the symptoms were worse. By Tuesday Welch was certain that he had a serious case of pneumonia. He had had pneumonia before and recognized the symptoms. Tuesday night he could hardly walk and his wife took him to the local hospital. The doctor gave him some over-the-counter cold tablets and sent him home.

But, Welch’s condition deteriorated further to the point where his wife took him to another doctor in Mena the next day. Dr. Calleton, a Vietnam vet, immediately called the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and told Welch’s wife to get him to Fort Smith immediately. The doctor told her that he should go by ambulance but she might be able to get there faster if she left right then. He called the CDC one more time before they left.

In Fort Smith a team of doctors were waiting. Dr. Calleton had called them twice while Welch was in transport and they had been in contact with the CDC. Later the doctor would tell Welch’s wife that he was on the edge of death. He would not have made it through the night had he not been in the hospital. He was having fever seizures by now.

A couple of days after Welch had been admitted to St. Edwards Mercy Hospital, his doctor was wheeling him to one of the labs for testing when she asked him if he was doing anything at work that was particularly dangerous. He told her that he had been a cop for about 15 years and that danger was probably inherent with the job description. She told Welch that they believed he had anthrax. She said the anthrax was the military kind that is used as an agent of biological warfare and that it was induced. Somebody had deliberately infected him. She added that they had many more test to run but they had already started treating him for anthrax.

It took Welch a while to digest what the doctor had told him. Welch knew that in his business if you couldn’t document something and/or corroborate it somehow, then it never happened. The next day, in the hospital room, the doctor told Debbie Welch, that they believed her husband had military anthrax and they were going to treat him for it. The doctor also told Debbie that Russell was very sick now and it was going to get worse before it was over, because the disease was going to have to run its course. She was right. The following day Arkansas State Police Investigator Andy Wiley was in Welch’s room and heard the doctor repeat the diagnosis. This time Welch told the doctor that he read about an outbreak of anthrax in some cattle in southeastern Arkansas a couple of weeks earlier. The doctor told Welch and his visitors that the warfare biological agent is not the same as the cow disease. She shook her finger in Welch’s face and said emphatically, “No, somebody did this to you. Somebody sprayed you in the face.” She described how the infectious agent is carried in canisters. She said, “This is the same stuff that Saddam Hussein was going to use on our troops.” Investigator Wiley wrote down the names of Welch’s medication and later confirmed that he was, in fact, being treated for anthrax. Other state police officers went to the hospital room, periodically, to help Debbie Welch, who stayed in the private room with her husband day and night for the entire 14 days that Welch was hospitalized. Investigator Charles Lambert and Investigator Bobby Walker were among those that heard the doctor discuss Welch’s circumstances and the anthrax.

The treatment was very effective against the anthrax but had severe side effects. Welch suffered a partial kidney failure. The doctor said it was a calculated risk that she had to take when she decided to treat him for anthrax. Welch was a weight lifter and stayed in good shape. The doctor told him that if it hadn’t been for that the chances are that he still might not have survived the disease. The doctor also credited his physical conditioning when he gained back most of the 40 percent of his renal functions which had been lost due to the anthrax treatment.

After this incident, Welch spent time trying to figure out how he could have gotten the anthrax. One possibility, he finally concluded, was through envelopes carrying padding material in which the infectious agent, Bacillus anthracis, can be transmitted. The Arkansas State Police used these for a while to mail microcassette tapes containing investigator’s dictation. Welch’s padded envelopes were returned to him with the tops torn off. When he complained to the secretary, Kim McBride, in Hope, Arkansas, she told him that the padded envelopes were not torn when she mailed them. Welch told his supervisor, Lt. Finis Duvall. Rather than do an investigation to find out who was tampering with official state police mail, some of which was sensitive, Lt. Duvall just said, “Well, I’ll be damn… wonder who’s doing that.”

Welch was discharged from the hospital on October 8, 1991. From there on, Welch’s career in the State Police never was the same. He suffered harassment, transfers, unwarranted criticism, and public hearings of his performance. His superiors in the state police were concerned that he was answering questions from the press now that Bill Clinton was seeking the presidency. At one point he was interrogated about whether or not he was writing a book. After nineteen years of honorable service, solving difficult cases, being requested by victims and their families in other parts of the state to be assigned to their investigations, Welch was being humiliated like an enlistee in military bootcamp. All of this was being done at the hands of men appointed by Bill Clinton and Jim Guy Tucker. An honest cop just trying to do his job, Welch finally left the State Police on January 16, 1996. After 20 years on the force, he left a poor and disillusioned man.

Even though Welch and Duncan sent boxes of evidence to Lawrence Walsh in Washington, Walsh never showed any interest in Mena at all.

Ask yourself, “Who has access to Military Grade Anthrax and can get away with the use of Biological Warfare in Arkansas?”  The international community banned the use of chemical and Biological Weapons after World War 1 and reinforced the ban in 1972 and 1993 by prohibiting their development, stockpiling and transfer.   Where was the International Community when biological weapons were used in Arkansas?

On Christmas Eve of 1992 — seven weeks after losing his bid for a second presidential term to Bill Clinton — George H.W. Bush pardoned six members of the Reagan administration who had been charged with crimes including perjury, lying to Congress or obstruction of justice.

All those charges stemmed from attempts by senior Reagan administration officials to cover up a covert White House operation whose disdain for established law and outright deception marred Reagan’s tenure.

The scheme, which unfolded over a two-year period beginning in late 1985, started with illegal arms sales to Iran.

Selling weapons to Tehran, which was at war with Iraq at the time, had two objectives. One was to enlist Iran’s assistance in freeing American hostages being held in Lebanon.

In turn, profits from Iran’s purchase at highly inflated prices for the weapons — which were routed through Israel — were used for the scheme’s other objective: buying arms for anti-communist rebels known as Contras who were fighting to topple the elected Marxist government of Nicaragua.

Those weapons purchases were done in defiance of a Congressional Ban on aid to the Contras.

Bush’s grant of pardons came 12 days before Caspar Weinberger, President Ronald Reagan’s defense secretary, was to go on trial. Weinberger had been charged with obstruction of justice and lying to Congress about the arms shipments to the Contras.

The focus of that trial was to have been a private notebook of Weinberger’s that contained references to Bush’s knowledge of the illegal arms sales to Iran.

Bringing those charges against Weinberger and the five others Bush pardoned was Lawrence Walsh, the independent prosecutor who investigated the Iran-Contra affair for seven years.

“The Weinberger pardon marked the first time a President ever pardoned someone in whose trial he might have been called as a witness,” Walsh wrote in a scathing 1993 final report on his investigation, “because the President was knowledgeable of factual events underlying the case.”

Bush issued the pardons contending that Walsh’s investigation amounted to the “criminalization of policy differences.”

The independent prosecutor’s quarrel with Bush was not limited to the pardons, which effectively scuttled Walsh’s investigation just as Bush was leaving office.

As Walsh wrote in response to the pardons, Weinberger’s notes revealed “evidence of a conspiracy among the highest-ranking Reagan administration officials to lie to Congress and the American public.”

Bush had publicly insisted he knew little about the Iran-Contra operation, but his diary revealed otherwise. “I’m one of the few people that know fully the details, and there is a lot of flak and misinformation out there,” he noted in a Nov. 5, 1986, entry. “It is not a subject we can talk about.”

Bush’s role in Iran-Contra was perhaps most memorably dissected during a remarkable live interview he did with CBS Evening Newsanchorman Dan Rather in January 1988.

Rather pointedly cited a poll indicating that one-third of Republicans believed Bush was hiding something about his role in the Iran-Contra affair.

“I am hiding something,” Bush angrily responded. “You know what I’m hiding? What I told the president, and that’s the only thing, and I’ve answered every question put before me.”

Bush was equally defiant about having gone along with Iran-Contra once he became aware of the operation.

“I went along with it, because you know why, Dan? Because I worried when I saw (captured Beirut CIA station chief) Mr. Buckley, heard about Mr. Buckley being tortured to death,” Bush told Rather. “So if I erred, I erred on the side of trying to get those hostages out of there.”

Bush ignored a question from Rather about whether he was concerned about sending missiles to Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini.

“This is not a great night, because I want to talk about why I want to be president, why those 41 percent of the people (in a poll of Iowans) are supporting me,” Bush told Rather well into the nine-minute heated exchange.

“And I don’t think it’s fair to judge a whole career, it’s not fair to judge my whole career, by a rehash on Iran.”

Rather reminded Bush that as vice president, he had claimed to have been “out of the loop” about Iran-Contra.

“May I explain out of the loop?” Bush replied. “No operational role.”

Bush would go on to win a single term in the White House, years that were dogged by Walsh, the independent prosecutor, trying to get to the bottom of how much the 41st president had known about the arms-for-hostages scandal and how much he had held back evidence of what he had known and when he knew it.

The inescapable conclusion to all this is that the Bush Sr. White House, which had in reality been in force since the first Reagan term, colluded with a little-known-at-the-time Arkansas governor to create and run the largest drug smuggling/arms smuggling/money laundering operation in history, which in turn helped prop up the bogus economy of the good old USA, the world’s do-gooder Policeman which really turned out to be, surprise, the world’s number one Narco-terrorist.

U.S. Attorney Asa Hutchinson did such a great job cleaning up the Mena mess that little George Bush made him the Drug Czar and Under Secretary of Homeland Security.


If you are interested in the depths of corruption in every level of government, this oral deposition of Russell Welch might open your eyes to the size of the Moon? It was produced at the request of the Attorney General’s Office, taken on the 21st day of June, 1991, before Jeff Bennett, C. C. R., Certificate #19, of BUSHMAN COURT REPORTING, INC., Notary Public in and for White County, Arkansas at the Office of the Attorney General, 323 Center Street, Little Rock, Arkansas at 2:30 p. m:

Q. You started investigating the situation in. Do you recall an instance in when the then U. S. Attorney Asa Hutchinson convened a grand jury for money laundering at Mena, do you recall that?

A. Concerning Rich Mountain Aviation?

Q. Well, concerning — yes, money laundering in Mena —

A. Is this the Investigation that Bill Duncan was —

Q. Yes.

A. Yes

Q. Did you assist in any way with that investigation, Russell?

A. Shortly prior to that I had spoken to Steve Snyder with FBI Agent Tom Ross over a sandwich in Fort Smith while we were preparing for court on a totally unrelated local drug offense, at which time Agent Tom Ross and myself were amusing ourselves with camouflaged C-‘s sitting at the Mena Airport. Steve Snyder, an excellent prosecutor, overheard the conversation, he was sitting right there with us, asked that we bring the case file in, he wanted to see this. He said he didn’t know what was going on, but he said, “We’re not going to have it going on in western Arkansas.”

Sometime, it wasn’t long after that, probably within the next month or so, that I had met Bill Duncan, and Bill Duncan notified me that we were to meet with Asa Hutchinson in Fort Smith to begin a grand jury investigation concerning a smuggling activity and money laundering activity. And when I got to Fort
Smith at the arranged time, I actually went up the elevator with Steve Snyder and was-carrying on like it was his meeting, because I assumed that it was because he had said something to me already. And we got to the top of the elevator, and he walked off in the other direction, and I asked him where he was going, were we having the meeting down there, and he said, “What meetings?” I said, “Well, we’re having a meeting on the and the activity around it that we talked about before,” and he said, “I don’t know anything about it,” and was, appeared to me, slightly upset that it was going on without — that he wasn’t involved. I never did get a chance to talk with him about that.

But we went into the meeting with Asa Hutchinson, and Asa was very up-tempo, asked what we knew about the events at that time, which was precious little, embarrassingly little, and asked for a witness list, and we were going to convene a grand jury. And my part in it was — I knew less than Bill Duncan did about his. Bill Duncan was going to pursue the money laundering
investigation, and I was going to pursue the other activities.

So that, with the explanation, I was — taken a very much lesser role in Bill’s investigation.

Q. Were you subpoenaed for the grand jury in the fall of

A. No. I’ve never been subpoenaed for grand jury in this

Q. You were not asked to testify regarding the money laundering in any shape, form or fashion before a grand jury; is that correct?

A. No.

Q. Did you have — what was your experience, Russell, with the federal authorities relating to the — to their cooperation with you in your investigation of the Mena situation?

A. It was a — it took me a long the to completely digest what was happening to me. But it was a very disappointing, humiliating experience.

Q. How do you mean — what do you mean?

A. When I went into this, I had never been involved in a federal grand jury investigation, didn’t know what it meant. I had some of my cases handled in Federal Court, but they were cases that had already been investigated. Most of them, we’d let a federal agent come in and help us with them, then we’d go to Federal Court. And they’d get them a case, and we’d — you know, it was just an easy way to handle it.

This time, as I got involved in this investigation with Bill Duncan, I was kind of following his lead a little bit. It started out very well. Asa Hutchinson was very up-tempo and things were good. And I knew Asa Hutchinson’s reputation was top-notch before that.

I remember when he came in as U. S. Attorney, everybody was really relieved in western Arkansas because we had had some uneventful prosecutions prior to that apparently. And he did a good job. He had a lot of prosecutions. Well liked.

My first uncomfortable experience was at the first grand jury session concerning money laundering where two witnesses, Jim Nugent and Kathy Corrigan, testified, and I was up there just for moral support more than anything else, and to see what was going on . And after they came out of the — out of their session with the grand jury, each individually expressed concern to Bill Duncan that they were disappointed, that they hadn’t been asked the proper questions. They didn’t like what happened to them in the grand jury room. And that concerned me a little at the time. But Bill Duncan, I remember him telling them not to worry, that Asa Hutchinson knows what he’s doing, and that there’s a reason for what — the way he’s handling this. And they tentatively accepted that. That was my first concern. But based on what Bill told them, I felt a little better about the situation. And I don’t know what happened at the grand jury, when they said they didn’t feel like they were asked the questions that they had been led to believe were the pertinent
ones for their testimony.

Shortly after that — I believe that’s the last session I can remember that Asa Hutchinson held with the grand jury concerning this investigation. Shortly after that, I learned that he was quitting his position and was going to run for some political office, and that Mike Fitzhugh would be taking over United States Attorney. My contact with the United States Attorney’s Office for the most part ended at that time.

There were a lot of frustration in that — in the lack of communication. We were so busy, it wasn’t really noticeable at first. By “we,” I mean myself and Bill Duncan, and myself and the people in my department going — traveling to New Orleans, or to Baton Rouge, to Texas, gathering information. We were busy trying to find out what had happened and gather a case file and see if there was something to investigate. And as the more we went, the more we found out, just a little here and a little there, and we slowly started building a case and saw at some point that, yes, there is something here that needs to be investigated. We have got cocaine smuggling that is not a covert operation by somebody who feels that we don’t need to know. Which we wouldn’t have trouble with that, with somebody who carried on a covert operation and not telling us, because you just can’t be too safe.

By the time we decided that we did have an investigation, that we did have a case, that we could focus on it, we could show where a crime had been committed, we didn’t seem to be able to get our evidence into grand jury. And I can’t really pinpoint a place where it started, except that there were — I remember a meeting of Mike Fitzhugh and a woman from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami concerning money laundering. She was to be out here to instruct Mike Fitzhugh how to handle the money laundering case. And Bill Duncan had asked me to be up there, and my supervisor, Lieutenant Finus Duvall, came up, and it seems like there was somebody else, but I can’t remember. And we sat in a little office down the hall from Mike Fitzhugh’s office all day thinking that we were going to be needed in his office. And finally — and Bill Duncan would come in every once in a while frustrated saying that — telling us that he didn’t know what was going on, didn’t know what was wrong, but Mike Fitzhugh didn’t want us in there. And at one point late in the day somehow, however it happened, I don’t know whether it was Bill Duncan or Mike Fitzhugh or whatever happened, but we were allowed to come in and give the status for our investigation at that time, present it to this lady. And she seemed obviously interested. She was — she thought that that was — that needed to be pursued. She said, “This case needs to be pursued.” And that — and I don’t remember if she made the statement at that time or later, we were told that — out of her office, that they had two other Assistant U.S. Attorneys that would like to come out and help him prosecute the case. We did have a case developing at that time for cocaine smuggling. There was some concern over the way we were treated prior to the presentation we gave her. Never heard from her again.

I don’t think it was too long after that, that I was attending a grand jury session in Fayetteville where I knew that the Rich Mountain Aviation case would be coming up. I had not received a subpoena, but I had permission to go up and spend the night in Fort smith on behalf of the Arkansas State Police, Colonel Goodwin was very supportive in the investigation, and if it hadn’t been for him I’d probably quit a long time before things did finally come to an end.

Q. And what do you mean by that, just because of your frustrations?

A. Just from the frustrations, I — it wasn’t going anywhere. I wasn’t getting support. I wasn’t getting subpoenas.

Q. Yeah, that was my question. What do you mean you weren’t getting support; you weren’t allowed to issue subpoenas or what?

A. Right. Asa Hutchinson had originally asked for subpoenas, and I didn’t know who to subpoena at the time, or I would have given him a list. When I finally did get — find out who needed subpoenas. I requested the subpoenas by either calling Mike Fitzhugh directly or sending word through Bill Duncan, and was denied the subpoenas. At that time the denial was based on, I believe it was the Graham Rudman Act was in the air at that time, and he said he just didn’t have the money to subpoena people for this case.

Q. Did you ever get those subpoenas issued?

A. Towards the end, you know, there eventually was something take place in grand jury. Subpoenas were issued. When I — when some of the key people were in grand jury, I never got a subpoena. I wasn’t asked to show up. And I felt like I was probably the most knowledgeable person or able to give the most help as to what those individuals should be saying, what they said in interviews, what their history is concerning Barry Seal.

I didn’t feel like anybody else that was there at the time would have known the questions to ask them. When I finally did get a chance to testify in front of a grand jury myself, it was because one lady on the grand jury was from Mena, worked at Mena Airport, and she saw me hanging out in the hall outside the grand jury room in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and told the others that if they wanted to know something about the Mena Airport they ought to ask that guy out there in the hall. At which time Mike Fitzhugh, somewhat angrily, told me that the grand jury wanted to talk to me. At that time, I didn’t know, I thought it was Mike Fitzhugh that was wanting me to come in, and later found out that it wasn’t. I was still optimistic that we had an investigation going on. And I told him that I could at the time, the best I could. And after that grand jury hearing that I testified in, Mike Fitzhugh asked me into the judge’s chambers next to the grand jury room in Fayetteville, and asked me if I could accept a — two misdemeanor counts on the — concerning the allegations being made against Rich Mountain Aviation. He didn’t mention any names. He just said would I accept two misdemeanor counts on individuals and maybe something on the corporate. But I told him that I couldn’t, but I didn’t care what he did, and I wouldn’t hold him accountable or criticize or talk behind his back or anything concerning what he did, because he was the U.S. Attorney and I was just an investigator, and that’s the way I felt about it. I said, “personally, I can’t accept two misdemeanor counts because the way I interpret the case it demands more than that.” And then he said, “Well, will you accept one misdemeanor count and one felony?” And I asked if were talking about conspiracy to smuggle drugs, and he said yes. And I said, “No, I can’t do that.” Just knowing the characters that we’re talking about, Joe Evans and Freddie Hampton, I was up front with him, I said, “Give Joe Evans the felony count because he’s always been an outlaw anyway and he doesn’t care one way or the other, and give the Freddie the misdemeanor.” But I said, “The case just merits more than that. There’s more than that to it.” And I reiterated that I can’t accept it, but if you want to do it, go ahead. You don’t need my blessing. And he — we spent a long time in that room, and a good part of it was spent with him walking back and forth looking out the window not saying anything. It was a — it was a very strained period of time that we were in that office together. And that was all there was to that.

Q. So actually no one was ever indicted, were they?

A. No.

Q. And how would you describe the cooperation of other federal agencies?

A. Mixed. The Drug Enforcement Administration in Florida, absolutely zero. They’re just as useless to us as tits on a boar hog. We had no use for them at all. I mean, they had just from what they gave us, there were almost to the point of rudeness. We did not get anything out of them. I went to an agent conference in Savannah, Georgia during that time period, which this group, Group or Group , whatever it is, did not show up. But there were other Customs agents there and other DEA groups represented, and they were all pretty open that they were surprised that this group from Miami DEA didn’t show up.

They stated that they were unable to get any use out of them as far as sharing information or working cases. It was just a problem for everybody. And we all rationalized that they had a major problem there, and probably don’t have time to mess with us. The amount of drugs that we would get excited about, they wouldn’t even go into court with. Rationalized to keep things going smooth.

The two DEA officers in Baton Rouge were very helpful, Mike Long and another one, I can’t remember his name, They had been investigating Barry Seal for some time, and they were extremely helpful and gave us information for a while that we would never have got from any other source. And they gave us a witness who was in — at that time was in a safehouse or was being kept in an isolated area because he was about to or had testified against Barry Seal, and they gave us this witness. Which just amazed us. And they gave us a couple of others, a guy named LeBlanc and some others that we had no idea how to get ahold of.  The DEA in Arkansas, they were pleasant, easy to get along, but they had no interest in the Barry Seal case at all.

As we observed Barry Seal fly into Mena one cold December night, a young pilot by the name of Earl, Billy Earl, I believe. WE had the airport under surveillance. We had received word that either a smuggling operation was going to be consummated there, or was — something was about to happen concerning Barry Seal. And this was from the operation Coin Roll investigation out of the task force in New Orleans. We set up, we had the FBI, DEA, State Police, and probably about any other investigative agency you can think of, we were all out there in force. I think Arkansas Game and Fish was represented.

And the plane did come in. And we observed what later was described as changing of a bladder tank. It was snowing that night. and the DEA wasn’t on the airport. They never pulled a surveillance mission. One of the FBI agents commented to me that his partner had stated to him later on, he said, “This is the last time I go on surveillance for an air smuggling mission that the DEA stays in the motel while the rest of us are out in the snow,” and he said, “that’s got to be a clue.” so we didn’t get a lot of support from the Arkansas Drug Enforcement Administration.

And from other areas it was mixed. We dealt with a lot of agents and agencies who were burned out on investigating Barry Seal, because it had ended in — all of their efforts had just ended in futility and frustration, sometimes lawsuits. And when they felt like they had cases, things just fell out from under them, and they just wouldn’t investigate him and didn’t want to hear about it, and certainly didn’t want to hear about him from us.

One Customs agent told me that, after I was trying to get some help from him, he said “look, we’ve been told not to touch anything that has Barry Seal’s name on it, just to let it go.”  And he said, “That’s fine. We’ve got plenty of other work to do.” I could go on and on.

Q. So basically would it be a fair summary to say that in your professional opinion Barry Seal moved his entire drug smuggling operation to Mena, Arkansas in the early ‘s and operated there for how long, until his death?

A. Oh, yeah.

Q. Until?

A. Yeah, past there was obvious government involvement with him.

Q. And although you never physically seized any cocaine, in your professional opinion there were shipments of cocaine that came into Mena Airport and/or Mr. Seal had brought those shipments — or had brought cocaine in from Columbia and let them out in isolated areas to be picked up with his helicopters which were based at Mena at various times?

A. We’ve got reason to believe that that’s exactly what happened.

Q. And based on reports to you, there was at least some evidence of paramilitary operations or trainings in the Mena vicinity, at least during some of the time?

A. Yes, there definitely was.

Q. This, in my opinion, Mr. Welch, is essentially the same testimony that Bill Duncan has given, and it is essentially the testimony that Richard Brenneke has given, except that he’s gone further in some areas. And I don’t think you’ll be able to testify to this from your own knowledge, but I want to ask you if it might be consistent with what you’ve seen at the Mena Airport. Mr. Brenneke, if I can paraphrase his testimony, has testified that he, himself, flew shipments of cocaine into the Mena Airport and that, according to his personal knowledge, some of those cocaine shipments were delivered to representatives of organized crime in this country. In your opinion as a
professional law enforcement officer, could this have happened at the Mena Airport?

A. Absolutely. I would want to add that since I have ended my investigation of cocaine smuggling and have been listening to the allegations of training, military training having taken place at the Nella Airport, whether that took place or not I don’t know. I can say that that does have explanative value to otherwise unexplained events that took place during the time period.

Lester Campbell, who was a friend of mine and was a supervisor of the Game and Fish Officers in that area, enforcement officers, was chased off from the Nella Airport area by, I believe he described them as camouflaged subjects who rudely told him to leave. There were reports of the Game and Fish officers who were told the same thing. And during that time period we were getting reports of air traffic at the Nella Airport. And it was during that same time that I was testifying at a murder trial in Waldron, Arkansas, which is the county seat for Scott County where Nella Airport is located. An FBI agent from Fort smith — the Fort Smith Office asked me to visit with him in the Sheriff’s Office at the Waldron, Scott County Courthouse, and asked me to tell him everything I knew about the Nella Airport. I proceeded to do that. One of our investigators, Don Taylor, who is now Chief of Police at Fort Smith, was in there and I thought that they were investigating the allegations that I had been hearing concerning Game and Fish officers being rudely evicted from the area and the air traffic in the area. And the Sheriff at that time had also got these same reports. Several months later, I asked Don Taylor — or weeks, I asked Don Taylor how that investigation was going, and he told me that he wasn’t involved in any investigation. He was just there on something else, and just happened to be in the room with this FBI agent when I came in. That he had no idea what I was talking about. Nothing ever developed from that.

MR. BRYANT: Okay. Let’s go off the record.


Q. BY MR. BRYANT) So following up on your answer that drugs could have been delivered to representatives of organized crime at the Mena Airport. Is there any other reasonable explanation as to what would have happened to drugs that were brought into Mena?

A. We were never able to come up with any explanation whatsoever as to what happened to the drugs. We just knew that definitely a lot of cocaine was coming into the country. And where it went, we had no idea.

Q. And it’s almost inconceivable to think that that amount of cocaine was used locally or in the general area of Mena, Arkansas?

A. Oh, definitely. We’re talking one to two trips a week, or two weeks, however it varied, with to pounds of cocaine each trip. I’ve got no idea how that much cocaine would be disseminated.

Q. And, in fact, Mr. Welch, you interviewed Barry Seal himself, did you not?

A. Yes.

Q. And did he not admit that he brought in billions of dollars of cocaine and drugs into this country over about an eight to ten year period of time?

A. Yes, he did.

Q. And –

A. And stated that during the year , the center of his operation was the Mena Airport.

Q. So it’s even likely that organized crime or some type of entity would have been the recipient of such large amounts of cocaine, would it not?

A. I’ve never even known of a dealer who could handle that quantity.

Q. Then, in your opinion as a professional law enforcement officer, you would not think it unreasonable for Barry Seal to bring drugs into Mena and sell those drugs to organized crime?

A. No. Whether it’s true or not, it has a lot of explanative value to me. And I don’t know who else would take the drugs.

Q. Okay.

A. It would take tremendous organization to disseminate that amount.

Q. Now, let’s go back to the case that you were working up that never resulted in any indictments whatsoever. Did the U.S. Attorney, Mr. Fitzhugh, ever tell you that a federal judge wouldn’t allow these cases to be presented?

A. The meeting that I had with him at the first grand jury session that I had testified before in Fayetteville, during that meeting, when we were discussing possible misdemeanor charges, he told me that we might get an indictment, and we probably could get an indictment, but a federal judge would never let it get to court, and we would be wasting our time.

Q. Who is Matt Fleming?

A. Matt Fleming was an Assistant U.S. Attorney.

Q. In the Fort smith Office?

A. In the Fort Smith Office.

Q. Did he ever tell you that you had enough evidence for a conspiracy case against the individuals at Mena?

A. During one of our meetings that I and others were present at, Matt Fleming and Mike Fitzhugh discussed in our presence the charges that they might want to pursue to the grand jury. Mike Fitzhugh said that he thought we had a good conspiracy case, that he was going to try to get an indictment on during the next session. But he reviewed and discussed with us the merits of aiding and abetting a case as opposed to conspiracy, and thought that — and asked us if we would approve that. He said it’s — the penalty is just the same, very similar, and that it would be easier to handle in court. And in that session, I believe one other, Matt Fleming told him that he thought the conspiracy case would be — you could go with. And that, I believe, Larry Carver with the DEA was at — in one of those sessions with us, also.

Q. Did the deputy foreman of the grand jury ever express concerns to you about a coverup or not being able to get the evidence they needed?

A. Yes.

Q. And who was that?

A. That was P.J. Pitts, Patty Pitts.

Q. And basically what did she tell you?

A. She was — had expressed concern that they weren’t being allowed to investigate the Mena Airport. That Mike Fitzhugh wasn’t giving them the evidence that they needed to have, and wasn’t giving them the witnesses they needed to have. She felt like that they were being hindered. That they wanted to indict, but were being kept back from it. And that what she finally realized was that he was asking for — the indictments that he was asking them to give, he had not given the evidence on. She stated that they wanted to indict for conspiracy. But he — when it come up for vote, what he presented to them was a case for cocaine actually being there at the Mena Airport, which we never proved. And he never gave them the opportunity to indict for conspiracy. I believe that’s the gist of what — and money laundering. Money laundering was a big thing. They never got the evidence on money laundering.

Q. Did the FBI come to Mena and warn you not to screw up the CIA operation?

A. I’m not sure what the purpose was for their appearance.  Floyd Hayes and Tom Ross were the FBI agents assigned to the Hot Springs Office. This was a period in which I wasn’t investigating. I had it behind me, and didn’t want to mess with it anymore, and I had other cases to go on to, and heard all of Barry Seal I wanted to hear. And there was some new activity at the airport with the appearance of what appeared to be an Australian business by the name of Southern Cross, and C-‘s had appeared at the Mena Airport. And this was right on the heels of Barry Seal’s assassination and the being there. So there was almost an unconscious association. And I still didn’t want to mess with it. I didn’t see a crime. If you’re not going to show me a crime, don’t expect me to investigate, was my attitude at the time. And the two agents showed up one Friday afternoon and asked me to — or to have coffee with me. And we met at a local coffee shop, and they explained that a friend of theirs at the Hot Springs Airport, who is — was in the CIA, and they had checked on it and confirmed that he was with the CIA, and that he was a source of theirs, had come to them stating that he received a telephone call from a current CIA member in Miami who was involved with the Southern Air Transport operation. And the Miami agent told the Hot Springs Airport contact that they had something going on at the Mena Airport involving Southern Air Transport, and what had been going on at Southern Air Transport. And they didn’t want us to screw it up like we had the last one.

At that time Oliver North was being intensely investigated.  And I was under the impression that he was being investigated for illegal activity that did take place, whether he was involved or not. And I felt like the FBI was telling me that there may be illegal activity going on here. When I asked them why they were telling me, they said they just wanted me to know.  And I asked specifically, “Do we need to investigate it?” They said they didn’t know. I felt like I was being — kind of requested to keep an eye on it, which I did, and kept notes, and pretty much unwillingly followed it for a while. And then, later on, when they were asked about that conversation, they both denied it.

Q. As a law enforcement officer, how did you feel after investigating the situation at Mena for a number of years and nothing ever happened?

A. I’ve got a lot of different feelings. Bitterness is certainly one of them, because if there was something there that they didn’t want investigated, all they ever had to do was tell me to take a hike, and I would never have asked any questions.

We have operations all the time — our own agents in the State Police come into Mena and do undercover operations and don’t tell me. I don’t need to know, and I don’t want to know. I don’t get put on an investigation investigating my own people and wasting my time. I could have quit anytime.

A local law enforcement officer came to me at one point a couple of years ago and asked if they could put some kind of group together of law enforcement agencies to try to contact somebody, to lobby, or whatever, because they just didn’t feel like busting somebody for an ounce of marijuana, when they felt like there were -they knew that so much cocaine transportation had gone unpunished with — when there was evidence to pursue it. I don’t know how to explain it. It’s not a good feeling to be used that way.

Q. In other words, you feel that you were used in this entire operation, and that the responsible officials never intended to pursue any criminal charges against responsible people?

A. That’s absolutely the way I feel. At one time we were trying to get Colonel Goodwin’s name on the -E list so I could brief him as to what I was doing with what I thought was a grand jury investigation. In a conference room at State Police Headquarters in Little Rock, I called Mike Fitzhugh and — to ask him if I could tell the Colonel the status of the investigation, and he said no. And I asked him if there was a grand jury investigation, and he paused for a minute and said no, said there wasn’t a grand jury investigation. And this was after I thought I had been involved in one for probably a year and a half at that time and had been keeping secrets. You know, at least he could tell me that I’m not involved in a grand jury investigation.

MR. BRYANT: Let’s go off the record.

(Off-the record.)

MR. BRYANT: That’s all. Thank you.


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