Note: After posting this article, I received information from one of the participants in the meeting Tatum describes that the actual amount of "missing money" was more in the neighborhood of $10 million, not $100 million. Tatum may have been relying on faulty memory, because the back of his DOD Internationl Flight Plan for the day concerned simply says: "Meeting with Gen Noriega/SatCom with North & Gov of AK concerning missing money. Dropped off Noriega @ airport in S.D. Met Barry Seal in 13SN (?). Seal took Gen Noriega & Harari."
D.G. "Chip" Tatum was already familiar with Central America when he was asked by Oliver North to infiltrate the 3/498th Medical Company of Ft. Steward, Georgia, as a MEDEVAC pilot. He had already flown extensively in Central America as a Special Operations pilot.
And it was as a Special Operations pilot operating out of Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, in 1983 and 1984, that Tatum would routinely deliver white coolers marked "medical supplies" to Little Rock Airforce base and to the Mena airport in Arkansas. There he would be met by Dan Lasater and Raymond "Buddy" Young. The coolers were similar to the one marked "vaccine" that had broken open at La Mesa airport in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. That container had held packages of cocaine, not vaccine.
Tatum's account of his dealings with these individuals are recounted at length in "The Tatum Chronicles", which is Part II of Chip Tatum's autobiography "Life as Pegasus". (Part I, "Nixon's Darkest Secret: Operation Red Rock" is available in manuscript form for $32.95 from Nancy Tatum, P.O. Box 895082, Leesburg, FL 34789).
But it was on March 24, 1985, flying under cover as a MEDEVAC pilot that Tatum attended a meeting involving General Noriega, President of Panama; Mike Harari, a former Mossad agent who was Noriega's principal advisor; William Barr, General Counsel for the CIA airline Southern Air Transport, and later Attorney General of the U.S.; the Honduran General Gustavo Alverez; two CIA agents (Felix Rodriguez and Joe Fernandez); and--via satellite link--Oliver North, Bill Clinton, and George Bush.
There was $100 million missing from North's "Enterprise", and the purpose of the meeting was to find out where it went. The meeting was held at a remote seaside retreat at El Ocotal, Costa Rica. In Tatum's words:
A communications center was set up at the chopper utilizing a phone provided by Mr. Fernandez. Attending the meeting were the following: General Noriega- Panama; Felix Rodriquez-US; Joe Fernandez-US; General Gustav Alverez-Honduras; William Barr- US. Via Sat/Com link: Oliver North-US; William Clinton- Governor of Arkansas; George Bush-US Vice President.Fernandez and Tatum returned to the aircraft to use the phone.
General Noriega and Mr. Barr greeted the aircraft when we arrived. The passengers adjourned to their meeting while I secured the aircraft. . . . I joined the meeting approximately thirty minutes later. When I arrived, the discussion was concerning the loss of over $100 million. The "Enterprise" was being drained. . . . It was obvious that the purpose of the meeting was to identify the source of the loss. The money flow was traced from Panama to several destinations in the US. Their Ohio source was ruled out early. Their Colorado source was also ruled out. That left Arkansas. It was discussed by the members that either [Barry] Seal or [Bill] Clinton were siphoning from the "Enterprise". . . .
He [Fernandez] called Mr. North. The discussion pin-pointed three people. Fernandez told North that the loss was definitely occurring on the Arkansas drop. He said, "That means either Seal, Clinton or Noriega."Tatum summoned Barr and Rodriquez to the aircraft.
About 15 minutes later the phone activated and Barr answered. . . . "I would propose that no one source [among Clinton, Noreiga, and Seal] would be bold enough to siphon out that much money, but it is more plausible that each are siphoning a portion causing a drastic loss." . . .My sources say Chip Tatum's word is reliable, moreso than Terry Reed's. So we have here the beginnings of a nice bipartisan scandal. And we haven't even gotten to the Mena information that Jim Guy Tucker coughed up as part of his plea bargain.
At that point the phone was handed to me. I answered, "Tatum". Vice President Bush asked me to ensure that General Noriega and Mr. Harari boarded Seal's plane and departed prior to my departure. He also wanted the tail number of Seal's plane. I was told to tell no one that we spoke. He then instructed me to pass the tail number to North via land lines when I returned to base. . . .
Mr. Barr then made another call. He asked for Governor Clinton. He must have had a direct number because he didn't have to wait. . . . He explained that a substantial amount of "Enterprise" monies had disappeared. He further explained to Governor Clinton that it was suspected to be in excess of $100 million dollars and that it was definately disappearing along the Panama to Arkansas connection. He suggested that Governor Clinton investigate on that end, and that he and Mr. North would continue investigating on the Panama side and that it must be resolved or it could lead to problems.
August 14, 1996