Roger Morris: Insists that Carl Bernstein ignored evidence that Bill Clinton was aware of a cocaine operation in Arkansas

Historians in the News

Much has been written about the CIA cocaine operation at Mena, Arkansas during Bill and Hillary Clinton’s watch as governor and first lady of that state in the 1980s. So I wondered why Carl Bernstein left it out of his book on Hillary Clinton, A Woman in Charge, when the argument put forth by Clinton biographer Roger Morris in his book, Partners in Power, was a particularly compelling one about the CIA operation taking place.

I decided to ask Bernstein formally for an explanation about this at his Hillary Clinton booktalk last Friday at the Barnes & Noble bookstore on the Upper West Side, situated a safe distance from the Columbia University and New York University war protest crowds.

Indeed, it was a restrained standing-room-only audience with neighborhood retirees in attendance and one or two street people to give the mix some real New York flavor.

Bernstein told me in essence during the Q&A following his talk that there is no evidence there ever was a CIA cocaine operation at Mena that “Clinton” was aware of.

Roger Morris, however, stands by his investigation of the Clinton Arkansas years. The award winning journalist and former foreign service officer who also served on the senior staff of the Johnson and Nixon National Security Council, reviewed thousands of documents related to the Mena episode and conducted 100 interviews in Arkansas before reaching the conclusion that the "Clintons" knew of the operation from the inception.

My interview with Roger Morris about Mena ran on these pages in July. [Scoop: Deeper Into The Clintons' CIA Drug Nexus]

Following the Bernstein booktalk, I emailed Roger for his comment on Bernstein's remarks. Here is Roger's response:

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"I may have mentioned to you that I reviewed the CB [Carl Bernstein] book at the behest of the Globe&Mail [ Book Review: The Woman Who Would Be Queen ... Or President], a review that was critical but was actually softer than what I might have said about him and the sad decline he represents. . . . [See also… Undernews: The Crash Of The Democratic Party ]

No one came to us with anything. Sally [Denton] got the [Barry] Seal archive from his widow after much hard work and several trips to New Orleans. The archive, which is now at the University of Nevada at Reno, or should be available there, I think, is what it is--exhaustive, unmistakable. The IRS pursued the widow for years. The CIA IG [CIA Inspector General] admitted to operations at Mena (though never drug trafficking, of course, there or anywhere else). Several law enforcement agencies, local, state and federal, had extensive records. I have rehearsed the documentation so many times. That on top of the corroborative/complimentary evidence from LD Brown, the Lasater connections [Dan Lasater, Arkansas bond dealer and Clinton friend convicted of drug trafficking], etc. etc.

Simply to ignore the story, as the apologists and (what grandma called) the fraidycats have is eloquent of the larger problem. And to believe that anything even a fraction of that magnitude went on there without Clinton being aware at some level beggars all imagination. But then Carl was not writing about him, I realize, and his book, among its many failures, is abysmal on Arkansas politics and the system there. Alas, I was a genuine admirer of Carl in the Watergate reporting (and was a source at one point), much beyond his ever-lightweight and subsequent sell-out co-author. Someday, of course, the Mena story will be opened further. But not from the Carl's, not from this culture. . . ."
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