The Lead

Exposing the CIA’s Involvement in the Cocaine Trade

Exposing the CIA’s Involvement in the Cocaine Trade
En Route to U.S.A. Late Sen. Paula Hawkins (R-Fla.) at a 1984 news conference, showing photos of Nicaraguan soldiers loading cocaine onto a U.S.-bound aircraft.

Freedom dispatched a team of reporters in 1989 to Mena, Arkansas, to investigate allegations of ongoing cocaine smuggling tied to the CIA. Adler Berriman “Barry” Seal, based in Mena, smuggled billions of dollars of cocaine into the U.S. His 1986 death in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, under a hail of bullets by a Colombian hit squad, did not end the CIA-connected enterprise, according to law enforcement sources. His murder was likely orchestrated to prevent Seal from talking about what—and whom—he knew.

Freedom’s investigation drew interest from many quarters, including Terry Reed, a CIA asset and pilot who had flown with Seal. Retired U.S. Army Special Forces Col. William Wilson, authored two Freedom articles describing how beacons, under the aegis of CIA operative Edwin Wilson and others, guided scores of cocaine-laden aircraft on an unmolested trafficking route from Colombia into Manuel Noriega’s Panama.

Compromised, a book co-authored by Reed and published in 1994, and Gary Webb’s “Dark Alliance: The Story Behind the Crack Explosion,” a 1996 series in The San Jose Mercury News that was later turned into a book, documented more of the subterranean underpinnings of the cocaine trade, pointing to a subject woefully under-reported or falsely portrayed by establishment media.