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FBI Files

The process of obtaining these files has been long and arduous. It began in 1995, and it is still far from over. I am convinced that nothing would have happened yet without the help of Arkansas Congressman Vic Snyder and his staff. Even with their help, the files I have received so far are incomplete, and many of the pages that were sent have been heavily redacted. I have appealed, seeking the complete release of all information that is presently being denied for reasons pertaining to either the National Security Act of 1947 or the CIA Act of 1949.

Barry Seal
Selected Files
All Documents

Rich Mountain Aviation   
Selected Files   

All Files

Kevin Ives
Don Henry

Selected Files
All Documents

 

The Mena Files

My Freedom of Information requests to the FBI pertain to two criminal investigations. The first I filed was for records relating to investigations of drug smuggling, gun running, or money laundering at Mena, Arkansas. That was in 1995. A year later I was notified that the FBI had been able to locate "no records pertaining to my request." I knew that was not true, in part because five years earlier the FBI had already notified the Arkansas attorney general, who had submitted a similar request, that it had 60 documents containing 208 pages on Mena. The FBI had refused to release the files because, it told the state’s attorney general, the case was still under investigation. I wrote a column (which is posted on this site) pointing out that either the FBI had destroyed some files between its responses to the attorney general and me, or its response to one of us had not been the truth.

I continued to press my demand, and I began to copy my correspondence to the Justice Department to the office of Congressman Snyder. Eventually, I received a letter explaining that my request for information pertaining to "gun running, drug smuggling and/or money laundering at Mena, Arkansas" could not be properly processed because the FBI files its records under the names of individuals or corporations who figure in their investigations. If requiring subject names is, indeed, the DOJ’s policy, that policy is not mentioned in the department’s published instructions for filing FOI requests.

They state that a request need only be "as specific as possible with regard to names, dates, places, events, subjects, etc."

I amended my request, specifying that I wanted files on Rich Mountain Aviation and Adler Berriman Seal. In 1997, I received approximately 34 pages of files pertaining to Rich Mountain Aviation. Those pages were interesting on several counts. First, chunks of them were blacked out. Second, they revealed that RMA, in rural Arkansas, was the subject of a fraud investigation by the Department of Defense relating to aircraft maintenance contracts on islands in the South Pacific. Third, the records revealed that Seal’s activities at Mena were the subject of "extensive Bureau investigation," beginning in October, 1983. In one memo, the immunity he received for his narcotics trafficking after his appearance before a Senate House Subcommittee was referred to as "Seal’s ‘judicial blessing.’"

By now three years had passed since my Mena request was filed. As I approached my publisher’s deadline for completing THE BOYS ON THE TRACKS, Snyder’s office and I continued to press the FBI to release its files on Seal. Just as the book was going into publication, I received a box containing 488 pages of what the FBI said was a 721-page file on Seal. Over the next several weeks, other pages trickled in. In all of them, most names were blacked out, making the related information worthless. The explanation given was that the deletions were to protect the privacy of those involved.

Of greater concern to me were deletions--sometimes of several pages--for reasons attributed to the needs of national security or of the CIA. As I mentioned, I am appealing for release of all information withheld for these two reasons.

My rationale is simple. It is summed up most succinctly in a memo sent from the FBI’s New Orleans office in August 1983, on the eve of his move to Arkansas. The special agent in charge wrote: "Seal controls an international smuggling organization which is extremely well organized and extensive." A memo dated the following October described Seal as "a documented major narcotics trafficker...." In light of the remarkable "judicial blessing" this international narcotics trafficker received, it is not unreasonable for the American public to seek the release of all records relating to him. What is unreasonable is for the Department of Justice to try to withhold those records, based on claims that such information might be harmful to national security or to the CIA.

The Henry-and-Ives Files

In 1997, I submitted another FOI request to the FBI; this one pertaining to its investigation into the deaths of Don Henry and Kevin Ives, the subjects of THE BOYS ON THE TRACKS. I made the request on the tenth anniversary of the boys’ murders after a peculiar interview with I.C. Smith, who was at the time the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Little Rock office. Smith told me that the FBI "probably" did not have jurisdiction to investigate the case; that he was keeping control of it and keeping the file closed, nonetheless; and that if I wanted to challenge that decision, I should do so in an FOI request to FBI headquarters in Washington.

Not long after that, I received a form from the FBI stating that it had located "no files" relating to either Don Henry or Kevin Ives. (You’ll find these records posted.) No answers were offered to my questions about the FBI’s jurisdiction in the case, considering that no federal crime had been alleged. After publication of THE BOYS ON THE TRACKS, however, another reporter contacted Linda Ives, the mother of one of the victims, notifying her that he too had submitted an FOI request to the FBI in the case, and--much to my surprise--he had been provided with several documents.

I immediately wrote to both the FBI in Washington and the bureau’s office in Little Rock, protesting my earlier notification that the FBI had found "no records." Washington responded with another form, stating that my FOI request had been received and assigning it a new number, ignoring the fact that I already had a request on file.

I contacted Snyder, who again brought my complaints to FBI officials. In response, I was finally notified in May 2000 that the FBI had located records totaling almost 17,000 pages relating to Henry and Ives. Release of all of them has now been requested.

Meanwhile, for anyone interested in the Seal documents, there are hundreds of pages here for review. I post them in the hope that persons who know more about some of these events than I will find information in them that may have eluded me, or that, as other pieces of this puzzle come to light, some of the pieces presented here may be seen in a different light. Mostly, though, I post them because they are public records, they are important, and they were so damn hard to get.