One of the great myths of the
Clinton scandals is that Mena -- the major Contra training, supply,
and drug running headquarters -- was a myth. One of those with
solid evidence to the contrary is William Duncan, the former
Special Operations Coordinator for the Southeast Region of the
Criminal Investigation Division,
Internal Revenue Service. In 1991, Duncan (who had lost his
job trying to get to the bottom of the Mena story) gave a deposition
to a joint investigation conducted by Rep. William Alexander
and the Arkansas attorney general's office, represented by Winston
Bryant. Here are some excerpts from the deposition -- giving
a vivid snapshot of what was going on and what honest investigators
such as Duncan and Arkansas state trooper Russell Welch were
Q. Would you state your name, age, and address, please?
A. William C. Duncan, age forty-four, 513 Pine Bluff Street,
* * * * *
Q. You were a criminal investigator for the U.S. Treasury
A. Yes, perpetually from December of '73 through June 16, 1989.
Q. And as a criminal investigator for the Treasury Department,
did you have occasion to investigate matters surrounding activities
in Mena, Arkansas?
A. Yes, I did.
* * * * *
Q. Would you describe the nature of your instructions and
the manner in which you carried out those instructions as they
relate to activities surrounding the Mena Airport matter?
A. I was assigned to investigate allegations of money laundering
in connection with the Barry Seal organization, which was based
at the Mena, Arkansas airport.
Q. And can you -- how long a duration were you involved in
A. I received the first information about Mena and illegal activities
at the Mena Airport in April of 1983, in a meeting in the U.S.
Attorney's Office, Fort Smith, Arkansas. Asa Hutchinson was the
U.S. Attorney then. Also present at that meeting was Drug Enforcement
Administration Agent Jim Stepp, S-T-E-P-P.
Q. Did you discover what you believed to be money laundering?
A. Yes, I did.
Q. Who was the object of your investigation, and what institution?
A. Rich Mountain Aviation, Incorporated based at the Mena Airport.
Barry Seal was not actually a target. We had targeted the employees
and cohorts of his which operated out of the Mena Airport.
* * * * *
Q. What did you do with the evidence of money laundering that
you gathered from your investigation?
A. Presented it to the United States Attorney's Office, Western
Judicial District, Fort Smith, Arkansas.
Q. And what were your recommendations to the U.S. Attorney?
A. That those individuals and corporation -- the corporation
be prosecuted for violations of the money laundering statutes,
also there were some perjury recommendations and some conspiracy
Q. Did you present to the U. S. Attorney a list of prospective
witnesses to be called?
A. Yes, I did.
Q. For a grand jury?
Q. And do you have the names of those witnesses?
A. There were a variety of witnesses. There were some 20 witnesses.
He called three witnesses. The witnesses including -- included
the law enforcement personnel who had participated in the investigations,
Barry Seal, members of his organization, people who were involved
in the money laundering, and various financial institution officers
who had knowledge.
Q. Mr. Duncan, the money laundering to which you refer, did
that arise out of an alleged drug trafficking operation managed
from the Mena, Arkansas airport?
A. It did.
Q. And it has been alleged that the Central Intelligence Agency
had some role in that operation. Is that the same operation that
Q. And when you submitted the witnesses, the names of the
prospective witnesses to the U. S. Attorney in Arkansas, are
you referring to Mr. -- what was the name of the U. S. Attorney?
A. Asa Hutchinson.
Q. Asa Hutchinson. And what was his reaction to your recommendations?
A. It had been my experience, from my history of working with
Mr. Hutchinson, that all I had to do is ask for subpoenas for
any witness and he would provide the subpoenas and subpoena them
to a grand jury. His reaction in this case was to subpoena only
three of the 20 to the grand jury.
Q. Now, of the three witnesses, who were -- what was the nature
of the evidence that would have been elicited from those witnesses?
A. Direct evidence in the money laundering.
Q. And did those witnesses testify for the grand jury?
A. yes, they did.
Q. Were you present at the time of the grand jury?
A. No, I was not.
Q. You were not?
A. I was in the witness room, but I was not in the grand jury.
Q. I see. What was the result of the testimony given by the
three witnesses to the grand jury?
A. As two of the witnesses exited, one was a secretary who had
received instructions ~~~ and I think on some occasions had discussed
with Barry Seal, the methodology. She was furious when she exited
the grand jury, was very upset, indicated to me that she had
not been allowed to furnish her evidence to the grand jury. ~~~
She was the secretary for Rich Mountain Aviation, who participated
in the money laundering operation upon the instructions of Hampton,
* * * * *
Q. And what did she say about the evidence that she was allowed
to give the grand jury as it might have been different from the
evidence that you wanted her to give to the grand jury?
A. She basically said that "she was allowed to give her
name, address, position, and not much else.
* * * * *
Q. And there were two other witnesses, I believe you made
reference to, did you talk with them?
A. I talked to another one, his name was Jim Nugent, who was
a Vice-president at Union Bank of Mena, who had conducted a search
of their records and provided a significant amount of evidence
relating to the money laundering transactions. He was also furious
that he was not allowed to provide the evidence that he wanted
to provide to the grand jury.
Q. And was there a third witness?
A. There was a third witness, I don't recall her name off-hand.
She was an officer at one of the financial institutions in Mena,
and she did not complain to me.
* * * * *
Q. What was the result of the grand jury inquiry into the
money laundering investigation which you had conducted?
A. There were never any money laundering indictments.
Q. There was no indictment?
Q. Did you have occasion to talk to any of the jurors that
were impaneled on the grand jury that heard the evidence?
A. At a later date, I came in contact with the deputy foreman
of the grand jury, who had previously given testimony to an investigator
for the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, concerning her
frustrations as the deputy foreman of the grand jury.
* * * * *
Q. And could you relate to us any other conversation you might
have had with her concerning her appearance before the grand
A. Well, she was perpetually involved in the grand jury as it
heard evidence concerning the Barry Seal matter, and she related
to me the frustrations of herself and the entire grand jury because
they were not allowed to hear of money laundering evidence.
Q. Do you recall any statements that she made to you concerning
that grand jury, her service on the grand jury?
A. .She stated to me that they specifically asked to hear the
money laundering evidence, specifically asked that I be subpoenaed,
and they were not allowed to have me subpoenaed.
* * * * *
Q. Mr. Duncan, are you saying that the grand jury that was
impaneled to hear your investigation, hear evidence of the investigation
that you had conducted for the U.S. Treasury as a special investigator,
A. The evidence was never presented to the grand jury. The evidence
gathered during that investigation was never presented to the
* * * * *
Q. There were no indictments?
A. Never any indictments.
Q. There were no prosecutions?
Q. In effect, the evidence that you gathered has not been
acted on by the U. S. Attorney's Office?
A. Not to my knowledge.
Q. Did you complain to your superior?
Q. What was his name?
A. Paul Whitmore, Chief of Criminal Investigation. I also complained
to my group managers, Tim Lee, Charles Huckaby and Max Gray.
Q. And what did they -- what was their response?
A. They were very frustrated, also. Mr. Whitmore, in fact, made
several trips to Fort Smith, Arkansas to complain to the U. S.
Q. Did he relate to you the conversation he had had with the
U. S. Attorney?
A. On several occasions, and also related to me that the U.S.
Attorney wrote him a letter telling him not to come to his office
anymore complaining, that that was unprofessional behavior.
Q. What was the conclusion of Mr. Whitmore concerning your
investigation and the manner in which it was handled by the U.
S. Attorney in Arkansas?
A. That there was a coverup.
Q. Are you saying -- do you agree with his-with Mr. Whitmore's
Q. Are you stating now under oath that you believe that the
investigation in and around the Mena Airport of money laundering
was covered up by the U. S. Attorney in Arkansas?
A. It was covered up,
Q. Would you state that succinctly for the record in your
own words, so that we might -- to have the benefit of how you
would state your opinion and conclusions as a result of your
activities as a special investigator -- as to this investigation?
A. I was involved from April of 1933, really to this date, in
gathering information, gathering evidence, until 1987-1988. I,
on a perpetual basis, furnished all the evidence, all the information
to the U. S. Attorney's Office. In January of 1986, a Special
Assistant U.S. Attorney from Miami, I believe, who was a money
laundering specialist, came to Fort Smith, met with then U. S.
Attorney Fitzhugh and myself and drafted a series of indictments.
I think there were 29 indictments, charging the aforementioned
individuals and Barry Seal, as I recall, as an unindicted co-conspirator
in the money laundering scheme. At that point in time I had every
indication that the cases would go to the Grand Jury, that the
evidence would be presented to a grand jury. We experienced a
variety of frustrations, mid '85 on, not able to obtain subpoenas
for witnesses we felt were necessary. I had some direct interference
by Mr. Fitzhugh in the investigative process. Specifically he
would call me and interrupt interviews, tell me not to interview
people that he had previously told me were necessary to be interviewed.
Q. Did you have any interferences or interruptions from anyone
within the U. S. Treasury Department that would interfere with
A. They interfered with my testimony before the House Judiciary
Subcommittee on Crime.
Q. Would you tell us about that?
A. In late December of 1987, I was contacted by Chief Counsel
for the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Hayden Gregory,
who told me that they were looking into the reason why no one
was indicted in connection with the Mena investigations. The
Internal Revenue service assigned to me disclosure litigation
attorneys, which gave me instructions which would have caused
me to withhold information from Congress during my testimony
and to also perjure myself.
Q. And how did you respond to the Treasury Department?
A. Well, I exhibited to them that I was going to tell the truth
in my testimony. And the perjury, subornation of perjury resulted
in an -- resulted because of an allegation that I had received,
that Attorney General Edwin Meese received a several hundred
thousand dollar bribe from Barry Seal directly. And they told
me to tell the Subcommitte on Crime that I had no information
Q. What is this about Meese? Where did you get that information?
A. I received that from Russell Welch, the State Police investigator.
* * * * *
Q. (BY MR. ALEXANDER) Mr. Duncan, prior to your resignation
from the Department of Treasury, do you recall any other conversations
you may have had with your superiors concerning the investigation
A. With respect to what?
Q. With respect to the manner in which the case was attempting
to be covered up?
A. We had continuing discussions because none of us, my managers
nor myself, had ever experienced anything remotely akin to this
type of interference. I had a very good working relationship
with all the Assistant United States Attorneys and the U.S. Attorney's
Office, Western Judicial District, never any problems. The office
was open to me, and I visited with them every time I was in Fort
Smith. And we couldn't understand why there was this different
attitude. I had found Asa Hutchinson to be a very aggressive
U.S. Attorney in connection with my cases, then all of a sudden,
with respect to Mena, it was just like the information was going
in but nothing was happening over a long period of time. Mr.
Hutchinson did not directly interfere as did Mr. Fitzhugh. But
just like with the 20 witnesses and the complaint, I didn't know
what to make of that. Alarms were going off. And as soon as Mr.
Fitzhugh got involved, he was more aggressive in not allowing
the subpoenas and in interfering in the investigative process.
He was reluctant to have the State Police around, even though
they were an integral part of the investigation. For instance,
when the money laundering specialist was up from Miami, Mr. Fitzhugh
left Mr. Welch in the hall all day until late in the afternoon
and refused to allow him to come in. We were astonished that
we couldn't get subpoenas. We were astonished that Barry Seal
was never brought to the grand jury, because be was on the subpoena
list for a long time. And there were just a lot of investigative
developments that made no sense to us. One of the most revealing
things, I suppose, was that we had discussed specifically with
Asa Hutchinson the rumors about National Security involvement
in the Mena operations. And Mr. Hutchinson told me personally
that he had checked with a variety of law enforcement agencies
and people In Miami, and that Barry Seal would be prosecuted
for any crimes in Arkansas. So we were comfortable that there
was not going to be National Security interference.
* * * * *
Q. Did you ever talk to a Mary Ann Curtin?
A. Yes, I did.
Q. What was her job?
A. She was the disclosure litigation attorney in Washington assigned
to counsel me, provide legal advice with respect to my testimony
before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime.
Q. What was her advice to you?
A. Told me not to offer any opinions, even if specifically asked
for my opinion by the Subcommitte on Crime. Told me not to volunteer
any information. Basically did not want me saying anything that
would reflect badly on the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Western
Judicial District of Arkansas.
Q. What was your conclusion from her instructions to you?
A. It made no sence for me not to give full and complete testimony
to the subcommittee on Crime.
Q. Mr. Duncan, do you get the impression that she was ordering
you to cover up the investigation?
Q. If you were asked to state that in your own words, what
would you say?
A. I would say that we had conducted textbook investigations
of all the individuals at Mena, there were a variety of legal
issues involved, which I had always had them in loop on. We had
proceeded very soundly. There was nothing for us to be ashamed
of. The investigations were thorough, to the extent that we could
conduct the investigation without subpoenas. And I would have
thought that the Internal Revenue Service would have wanted a
complete disclosure to Congress about the problems that we encountered,
but quite the opposite was true. They obviously did not want
any negative testimony coming from me concerning the U.S. Attorney's
Office. At one point when we were arguing about the Meese allegation,
she told me that she had discussed my frustrations with the personal
assistant to the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, who was Larry
Gibbs at the time, and the personal assistant's name was Bryan
Sloan. And that Bryan Sloan told her, "Bill is just going
to have to get the big picture."
* * * *
FURTHER EXAMINATION BY MR. BRYANT:
Q. Bill, let me ask you a few questions. I want to take you
back to your investigation at the Mena Airport. How many federal
agencies were involved in that investigation at the time you
first went there?
A. I was aware that U.S. Customs Service was involved..I was
aware that the FBI was involved, the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Those were federal agencies. The Arkansas State Police was involved.
The Polk County Sheriffs Office was involved and also the Louisiana
State Police was involved in investigating a link between Louisiana
Q. In your opinion, were those agencies actively involved
in the investigation of the Mena operation and specifically Barry
Seal at that time?
A. Actively involved since at least 1982.
Q. And when did you first go to Mena?
A. In May of 1983.
Q. And after you were involved in the investigation, when
did you make your presentation to the U.S. Attorney for the grand
jury laundering allegation that you had prepared?
A. The reports, the prosecutorial reports went to Mr. Fitzhugh
in December of 1985.
Q. At that particular time were all federal agencies still
actively involved in investigating the Barry Seal matter or had
they--had their interest cooled, or how would you describe it?
A. It was a very strange thing, because we were dealing with
allegations of narcotics smuggling, massive amounts of money
laundering. And it was my perception that the Drug Enforcement
Administration would have been very actively involved at that
stage, especially along with the Arkansas State Police. But DEA
was conspicuously absent during most of that time. The FBI appeared
on the scene intermittently. Usually when Russell and I were
going to conduct some credible interviews, Tom Ross, from the
Hot Springs FBI Office, would suddenly appear on the scene. He
would make some trips to Baton Rouge with us. U.S. Customs was
conspicuously absent, also. It was primarily just Russell Welch
Q. Regarding the allegations of drug running and weapons running
and any other things that you might have heard, what information
do you have to, number one, substantiate that there might have
been drugs brought to the Mena Airport?
A. We were receiving information from a variety of sources that
Barry was doing some work for the United States Government, but
that be was smuggling on the return trips for himself. We knew
from his modus operandi in Louisiana that he many times dropped
the rugs in remote areas and retrieved them with helicopters.
He had helicopters in the hangers at Mena and a variety of aircraft,
smuggling type aircraft on the ground in Mena. And we heard,
you know, all the time that he was making on return trips --
Terry Capeheart, a Deputy at Polk County Sheriff's Department,
had received information from an informant on the inside at Rich
Mountain Aviation that drugs were actually brought into Rich
Mountain Aviation, and on one occasion guarded with armed guards
around the aircraft.
* * * * *
Q. What specific physical evidence did you observe at the
Mena Airport that would indicate to you, that in your professional
opinion, drugs were brought to Mena or that Mena was being used
as a base for drug smuggling?
A. primarily I was reviewing evidence gathered by the law enforcement
agencies, surveillance logs, their representations to me. I was
focusing on the money laundering and financial analysis end of
it, and did not conduct a lot of physical surveillance myself.
But we had a lot of intelligence reports and surveillance reports
of various airplanes in there being refueled, leaving in the
middle of the night, N numbers being changed, typical modus operandi
of a smuggling. We also had testimony that his aircraft had been
plumbed with longer range tanks and bladders, that illegal cargo
doors had been installed in the aircraft. And there was a lot
of evidence of that. And I was seeing on some of the cashier's
checks, Barry Seal's name on cashier's checks. The secretary
~~~ stated that when Barry would come in in his airplanes, the
next morning many times there would be stacks of cash to be taken
to the bank and laundered.
Q. In connection with your investigation into the laundering
activities, what -- how much money was laundered in your opinion
through the Mena bank?
A. At the time we couldn't proceed any further because of the
lack of subpoenas. I would have to review the records, which
the Internal Revenue Service has now. But it seems like there
was a quarter of a million dollars, $300,000, something like
that that we had documented, that had been laundered through
the Mena banks, just the Mena banks.
Q. And when you say "laundered," what specifically
do you mean; what happened?
A. They were obtaining cashier's checks in amounts of $10,000
or less at a variety of financial institutions in Mena and some
further north from Mena or sometimes different tellers in the
same banks to avoid preparation of the Currency Transaction Report.
Kathy Corrigan testified that her instructions ~~~ were, that
they were to do this to avoid the Internal Revenue Service knowing
about the money and to avoid payment of taxes on the money.
Q. Now, are you saying the' someone from Rich Mountain Aviation
would appear at a local bank with $10,000 or less in cash, and
then give that to the bank in exchange for a cashier's check,
was that the typical arrangement, or what was the typical arrangement?
A. They would go with, say, $9,500, or they might go with $30,000,
but they would break it up in increments of $10,000 or less.
And on one occasion Freddie Hampton personally took a suitcase
full of money, I think it was seventy some thousand dollars,
into this bank officer, and the testimony of the tellers revealed
that the bank officer went down the teller lines handing out
the stacks of $10,000 bills and got the cashier's checks. Those
cashier's checks, in that instance, went to Aero House of Houston
for the building of Barry Seal's hanger. This, as I recall, was
November of '82.
Q. Do you have any doubt in your mind that Mena was used as
a base for drug operation. headed by Barry Seal?
A. Do I have any personal doubt?
Q. Do you have any personal doubt in your mind that that is
not the case -- that that was not the case?
A. I very much believe that was the case.
Q. You had an occasion to interview Mr. Seal yourself, did
A. That's correct.
Q. Now, when was this?
A. This was December of '85.
Q. Was this prior to the laundering grand jury or after?
Q. After. Was there any particular reason why Barry Seal was
not called to testify at the grand jury?
A. I never received an explanation from the U.S. Attorney's Office
as to why he was not called. Because we were given assurances
that he would be called to the grand jury. He was on the witness
list, and I issued him a subpoena at the time I interviewed him
for appearance at the grand jury. You've already stated you,
as a law enforcement official did not testify?
A. That's correct.
Q. Did any law enforcement official testify before the grand
jury, to your knowledge?
A. It's my understanding that Larry Carver with DEA testified
before the grand jury sometime maybe in '87 or '88. Russell Welch
testified before the grand jury, and also Terry Capaheart testified
before the grand jury.
* * * * *
Q. In your professional opinion as a law enforcement official
with extensive experience, is that -- wouldn't it be highly unusual
in extreme cases where law enforcement officials who investigated
the case would not be called to testify?
A. Every grand jury case that was ever presented where I conducted
the investigation, I was the law enforcement officer who summarized
the evidence before the grand jury. I find it highly unusual.
Q. And isn't it highly unusual that Barry Seal was not called
to testify in view that he was - - in view of the fact that he
was the principal involved in the investigation?
A. We found it highly unusual.
Q. You had an opportunity to interview Mr. Seal. Did Mr. Seal
make any admissions regarding drug operations that he headed?
A. I would have to review a copy of that transcript. he basically
admitted that he had been a smuggler, that he had smuggled drugs.
he told -- he said that he told the people at Rich Mountain Aviation
that they were guilty of money laundering and should be prepared
to plead guilty to it. That he provided instructions to them
that resulted in them getting involved in money laundering. "Not
to put his business on the street," I think is the way he
* * * *
Q. Mr. Duncan, we've talked about -- you have testified that
a one Barry Seal, in your judgment, laundered money from -- that
was derived from the sale of drugs --
Q. -- in several banks in and around Mena, Arkansas. He had
to get those drugs -- "he," Barry Seal, , had to get
those drugs from somewhere. Do you know the source of those drugs?
A. The specific drugs in the Mena operation?
Q. Well, Barry Seal got drugs that he sold for money. Are
those the drugs that came to Mena from Central America?
A. I don't have direct evidence of that.
Q. Do you have any evidence as to where Barry Seal might have
gotten the drugs that he sold for money that was laundered at
A. I believe that he testified that he had a history of smuggling
narcotics, marijuana and cocaine, from Central America.
Q. Did Barry Seal have a connection with the so-called Mena
operation, drug smuggling operation?
A. The evidence that we have indicates that his entire base of
operation moved from Baton Rouge to the Mena Airport in approximately
1982, late 1982.
Q. Mr. Richard Brennecke testified earlier today that he was
a former contract employee with the CIA, and that as a pilot
he transported guns and munitions from Mena, Arkansas to Panama.
And that on the same airplane returned with a cargo of drugs,
mostly cocaine but some marijuana, that was brought back to Mena
and delivered to one Hampton, Freddie Hampton, and to representatives
of the Gotti New York crime syndicate operation, the Mafia from
New York. Do you know whether or not any of those drugs that
were described by Mr. Brenneke went to Mr. Seal as well and were
sold in the United States in exchange for the money that he laundered
A. I have no personal knowledge of that.
FURTHER RE-EXAMINATION BY MR. BRYANT:
Q. Even though, while you do not have personal knowledge of
that, Bill, would Mr. Brenneke's scenario, based on what you
personally know happened at Mena, be consistent?
A. What Mr. Brenneke has related concerning the Mena operation
would be consistent with testimony from a variety of individuals
and additional information that we received concerning the method
of operation at Rich Mountain Aviation. For instance, Kathy Corrigan
related that on numerous occasions they would be forced to stay
inside their offices because airplanes would land and strange
faces would be around, Central American or Mexican, Spanish origin
folks would be around that they had not seen before. But on those
occasions they were given instructions by Hampton and/or Joe
Evans to stay in the office and make no contact with those individuals.
Airplanes landing in the middle of the night, hanger doors opening,
the airplanes going in, then leaving out before daylight, numerous,
dozens and dozens of accounts like that. Great secrecy surrounding
the entire operation at Rich Mountain Aviation.
Q. So if everything that Mr. Brenneke stated regarding his
relationship with the Mena operation were true, it would fit
into the overall picture as you understand the situation at Mena,
would it not?
A. Yes, It would. With respect to the training at Nella, we had
numerous reports of automatic weapons fire, of people in camouflage
in the middle of night, low intensity landing lights around the
Nella Airport, twin-engine airplane traffic in and about the
Nella Airport. Reports as far as 30 something miles away of non-American
type of troops in camos moving quietly through streams with automatic
weapons, numerous reports like that from a variety of law enforcement
sources. Also, reports that -- from the Arkansas Game and Fish
Commission people that they found vast quantities of ammunition
hulls secreted in shacks around the Nela Airport. On one occasion
the Game and Fish officer was warned away from the Nella Airport
by someone who purported to be an FBI agent and exhibited a badge,
On and on and on.
Q. Regarding the Nella Airport, have you been there personally?
A. Yes, I have.
Q. And so there is another airport not far from the Mena Airport?
A. Yes, there is, approximately ten miles north.
Q. And would there be any other reason for the Nella Airport
other than clandestine activities, paramilitary training, use
by planes to bring in drugs, illegal contraband and so forth?
A. Not to my knowledge. There are no hangers out there. The type
of reports that we had from individuals living around the airport
would indicate that type of an operation. Some of those people
said that there were frequent visits by people from Rich Mountain
Aviation basically asking what they were seeing and hearing.
There was a large expenditure of money in preparation of the
strip by Freddie Lee Hampton. The type of expenditure that you
wouldn't make just for an out-of-the-way little country airport.