I’m pretty open-minded when it comes to religious and spiritual matters. I try not to judge beliefs that are contrary to my own. Still, it is puzzling to me that so many Christian fundamentalists are so unforgiving of “saved” sinners because of political differences.
As an ex-drunk, maybe I have a soft-heart, or as some have said, I’m soft in the head. Regardless, I received a lot of criticism throughout my career for taking up the cudgel of “redeemed” criminals, and others occupying lofty positions on the unpopularity index. Topping that list, perhaps, is Barry Seal, a notorious international drug smuggler allegedly involved in CIA guns for drugs schemes.
In October, 1984, I sat beside a cameraman at the window of a Miami hotel room watching four men in a parking lot four floors below. Adler Berriman (Barry) Seal was meeting with a tall, younger man sporting a bushy mustache and blondish hair. Two Hispanic men looked on, but said little. The blonde guy was an agent of the Drug Enforcement Administration. The Latinos were Panamanian snitches.
The location of our vantage point for secretly videotaping the clandestine rendezvous was surrealistic – a garishly decorated hotel suite with mirrored walls, a king-sized waterbed, a columned Roman Tub, and a table-like contraption similar to a gynecologist’s workbench. Moans, grunts and screams of “Oh, God. Oh, God,” echoed in the background.
Despite the noise of a hardcore pornographic TV channel we should have turned off – or at least muted – and the distractions of elaborate sexual accouterments, our attention remained focused on the meeting. It was supposed to prove an outlandish story that Seal told me a few days earlier. The grossly overweight pilot admitted smuggling tons of dope into the United States. But he said that was before signing on as a super-spy for both the DEA and CIA. To corroborate his tale, I was unwittingly committing a felony.
Two documentaries that I reported about Seal’s life and death made me the target of intense criticism, a defendant in multi-million dollar libel lawsuits by cops and prosecutors, and the subject of an investigation into my personal life by a private detective reportedly hired by Richard Mellon Scaife (a Pittsburgh billionaire and owner of a newspaper that regularly suggested Vincent Foster’s suicide was, in fact, a murder).
Barry Seal’s gravesite must have quaked with laughter at the accumulation of fables surrounding his activities. He relished notoriety. The flamboyant pilot’s need for attention is what got him killed. Unfortunately, I was an accomplice. He wanted to be a television star, and I agreed to put him in the spotlight.
His braggadocio in our early meetings made the story irresistible. Seal’s favorite word was “covert.” He alluded to a long history of working for the CIA, though I found out that his spy interlude was brief.