|Born||Adler Berriman Seal
July 16, 1939
Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S.
|Died||February 19, 1986 (aged 46)
Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S.
Seal was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the son of Mary Lou (Delcambre) and Benjamin Curtis Seal. He began flying at the age of 15. In 1955, he received his airman certificate at the age of 16 and joined the Civil Air Patrol (CAP).
After successful runs into his home base in Louisiana he moved operations to an infamous airport facility in Mena, Arkansas. There he owned and operated many planes and helicopters and advanced radar equipment. This includes the C-123 transport plane that was famously used in the Nicaragua sting operation. "All of his aircraft were equipped with the most expensive cryptic radio communications we had ever seen at that time," said DEA Agent Ernest Jacobsen. The operation was very successful until Seal was indicted on conspiracy to smuggle Quaalude into Florida in 1984.
According to the Frontline: Godfather of Cocaine investigation, Ernst "Jake" Jacobson was Seal's DEA handler during this period. Jacobson claims he still has the high-tech message encrypter which Seal gave him. In order to mitigate his 1984 arrest in Fort Lauderdale, Florida for money laundering and Quaalude smuggling, he agreed to testify against his former employers and associates in the drug trade, putting several of them in jail. Among those Seal testified against were Chief Minister of the Turks and Caicos Islands Norman Saunders and members of the Medellín Cartel. Seal also testified before the President's Commission on Organized Crime in October 1985.
In 1988, Jacobsen told a House Judiciary Committee that Seal had flown to an airstrip in Nicaragua in an airplane that had cameras installed by the Central Intelligence Agency. Seal took pictures during the Nicaragua sting operation that clearly showed Pablo Escobar, Jorge Luis Ochoa Vásquez, and other members of the Medellín Cartel loading kilos of cocaine on to a C-123 transport plane. Also Frederico Vaughan, an associate of Tomas Borges of the Interior Ministry of Nicaragua, was photographed with Sandinista Soldiers helping load the plane.
Seal was both a smuggler and an informant for the DEA in this sting operation against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. In 1984, Seal flew from Nicaragua to Homestead Air Force Base in Florida with a shipment of cocaine that had been allegedly brokered through the Sandinista government. This cocaine was seized by the DEA, and was never received by the cartel's distribution handlers in Florida, which immediately caused suspicion in Medellín pointing to Barry Seal as the person responsible for this lost shipment.
A story appeared in the Washington Times in 1984 describing the infiltration of the Medellín cartel's operations in Panama and Nicaragua. The alleged purpose was to prove the Nicaraguan Sandinistas' involvement in the drug trade and to build support for the Contra war effort. This leak and subsequent controversy eventually led to the Iran Contra Affair which unraveled a year later.
The Wall Street Journal also printed the story. The media coverage indirectly exposed Seal's involvement in the operation. Also the articles exposed Colombian cartel leaders and a Nicaraguan Interior Minister who were photographed moving cocaine onto an aircraft. Despite these pressures, Seal went ahead and testified with the pictures taken during the trip showing Sandinista officials in Nicaragua brokering a cocaine deal with members of Colombia's Medellín Cartel. One month after Seal's death on March 16, 1986, President Reagan showed one of the photographs Seal took on national television, to bolster Congressional support for the Contras. He suggested that a top ranking Sandinista official was involved in drug smuggling.
DEA officials in Washington denied the claim a few days later, pointing out that the Nicaraguan was a local fixer.
As part of his plea agreement, Seal was ordered to a halfway house in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he was murdered by hired Colombian assassins for the Medellín Cartel.
On February 19, 1986, Barry Seal was shot to death in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in front of a branch of the Salvation Army on Airline Highway (U.S. 61), where he was required to stay as a condition of his plea bargain. Seal's shooting brought the DEA's investigation to a violent end. Colombian assassins sent by the Medellín Cartel were apprehended while trying to leave Louisiana soon after Seal's murder. In 1987, Luis Carlos Quintero-Cruz (the trigger man), Miguel Velez, and Bernardo Antonio Vasquez, were convicted of the murder of Barry Seal and sentenced to life in prison.
In popular culture
Imagine Entertainment is currently getting set to film a biopic of Seal's life entitled Mena. Tom Cruise is set to play Seal, Brian Dennehy will play Bill Clinton, in a cast with Jesse Plemons, Sarah Wright, Jayma Mays and Lola Kirke. Doug Liman will direct with Brian Grazer producing.
- "Mary Seal Obituary - Baton Rouge, LA - The Advocate". The Advocate. Retrieved 15 April 2015.
- "frontline: transcripts: the godfather of cocaine". Retrieved 15 April 2015.
- "Thirty Years Of America's Drug War - Drug Wars - FRONTLINE - PBS". Retrieved 15 April 2015.
- "Drug agent blames leak on key aide". The Register-Guard (Eugene, Oregon). AP. July 29, 1988. p. 8B. Retrieved March 31, 2015.
- Barry Seal Nicaragua Case
- "Interviews - Fernando Arenas - Drug Wars - FRONTLINE - PBS". Retrieved 15 April 2015.
- Barry Seal: The Leak
- "Special Reports - Interview - Drug Wars - FRONTLINE - PBS". Retrieved 15 April 2015.
- "Double-Crossed (1991)". The New York Times (New York). 2010. Retrieved May 25, 2013.
- Trial Opens Today for 3 Accused of Murdering Drug Ring Informer
- Colombians Given Life Terms in Drug Ring Slaying
- Mike Fleming Jr. "‘Edge’ Guys Tom Cruise, Doug Liman Eye Drug Pilot Tale ‘Mena’". Deadline. Retrieved 15 April 2015.
- Patrick Hipes. "Jayma Mays Joins Tom Cruise’s ‘Mena'; Tessa Thompson Cast In ‘War On Everyone’ - Deadline". Deadline. Retrieved 15 April 2015.
- Erik Pedersen. "Sarah Wright Cast In ‘Mena'; Barkhad Abdi Joins ‘The Wolf Who Cried Boy’ - Deadline". Deadline. Retrieved 15 April 2015.
- Gugliotta, Guy; Leen, Jeff (2011). Kings of Cocaine: Inside the Medellín Cartel - An Astonishing True Story of Murder, Money and International Corruption. Garrett County Press. ISBN 9781891053344.
- "The Kingpin and his many connections" Michael Haddigan, The Arkansas Gazette
- http://archive.gao.gov/d26t7/139919.pdf US Senate Commission Report On Organized Crime: Barry Seal Noted on Page 21.