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Investigation Absolves CIA in Alleged Drug Smuggling

November 9, 1996 GMT

WASHINGTON (AP) _ An internal investigation absolved the CIA of involvement in alleged drug smuggling and other illegal activities at a northern Arkansas airport.

Frederick Hitz, the intelligence agency’s inspector general, said ``no evidence has been found to indicate that CIA or anyone acting on its behalf participated in, or otherwise had knowledge of, any illegal or improper activities in Mena, Ark., or the area north of Mena known as Nella, Ark.″

The agency released a six-page, unclassified summary of his findings on Friday.

CIA Director John Deutch ordered the investigation last spring in response to a request in February by Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa, chairman of the House Banking Committee. Leach’s panel is conducting its own investigation of money laundering in the Mena area, stemming from the committee’s Whitewater inquiry and related issues.

Dave Runkel, a spokesman for the banking committee, said the allegations that the CIA was somehow involved in running guns to Nicaragua and that agency-chartered planes may have been used to smuggle cocaine into the United States date back to the Reagan and Bush administrations.

``No evidence has been found that the CIA was associated with money laundering, narcotics trafficking, arms smuggling or other illegal activities at or around Mena, Ark., at any time,″ said Hitz.

At a news conference in 1994, President Clinton, who was governor of Arkansas when the alleged incidents took place, said that he knew nothing about any illegal activity at the Mena Intermountain Airport.

``The airport in question, and all the events in question, were the subject of state and federal inquiries,″ he said. ``It was primarily a matter for federal jurisdiction. The state really had next to nothing to do with it.″

Hitz said the CIA was involved in two activities at the airport over a three-year period. It engaged in a joint training operation at the airport with another federal agency, his report said.

``The CIA’s role in this two-week exercise was classified and not publicly disclosed,″ said Hitz.

In addition, the agency contracted with businesses at the airport ``to perform routine aviation-related services on equipment owned by the CIA,″ he said. He added that ``the companies and their employees were not informed the CIA owned the equipment that was being serviced.″