By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
WASHINGTON, D.C., MAY 10The news leak here Wednesday that President Bush will soon name Asa Hutchinson, a conservative Arkansas Republican, as head of the Drug Enforcement Agency has cranked up the Clinton conspiracy buffs.
Hutchinson, of course, is best known as the clean-cut House prosecutor who helped bring Clinton's impeachment before the Senate. His appointment will be a victory for the dozens of House members who hung tough and pushed the hopeless effort to the very endat which point they were mocked by Bill Clinton and Al Gore, who stood on the White House porch celebrating the victory and laughing at the right-wingers.
But Clinton scandalmongers are into Hutchinson for quite another reason. They say that while he was U.S. attorney for the western part of Arkansas in the early 1980s, he looked the other way as a huge drug ring allegedly operated in the little town of Mena. Hutchinson, for his part, said he left office before the evidence was well-established, according to the Arkansas Times.
Conspiracy buffs suspect the ring was part of the Iran-Contra affair. They think Hutchinson and his successor ignored the drug trafficking and money laundering to protect the interests of President Reagan and other GOP bigwigs. The state police and the IRS are said to have investigated the situation at Mena, but a grand jury investigation went nowhere. Barry Seal, the famous drug trafficker, was murdered about a month before he was to appear before the grand jury in Arkansas.
L.D. Brown, a former member of then governor Clinton's Arkansas security detail, claimed in a 1995 article in The American Spectator that he had participated in two secret flights originating from Mena in 1984 during which M-16 rifles were given to the Nicaraguan contras in exchange for cocaine. Brown also claimed Clinton himself was involved. In the mid 1980s, Hutchinson, ensconced as head of the state Republican Party, asked for a new investigation into drug trading and other irregularities at Mena.
The charges of money laundering and drug trafficking at Mena have grown to legendary proportions. They have been stoutly denied, and proof has always seemed circumstantial at best.