A federal judge shouldn't reconsider ordering the Drug Enforcement Agency to open up some tightly guarded, decades-old documents for viewing by a Benton woman who hopes they will reveal clues about her son's 1987 death, her attorney argued Friday.
There is no evidence that a source who provided information that was recorded in the documents in 1983 and 1995 was assured confidentiality from eventual disclosure, attorney R. David Lewis of Little Rock wrote in response to the DEA's request earlier this week that Chief U.S. District Judge Brian Miller reconsider his Aug. 2 order.
After privately reviewing several documents that the agency withheld from Linda Ives in response to multiple Freedom of Information Act requests she submitted over a period of years, Miller found that parts of two investigative reports should have been turned over to Ives.
While the DEA claimed all the withheld information was exempt from disclosure, Miller said his review, in response to a federal lawsuit Ives filed, showed that the agency didn't provide Ives with "all reasonably segregable information."
He ordered the agency to submit to his court by Friday a proposed method of redacting the exempt parts from the non-exempt parts. He said he would review the DEA's proposal and then decide to either release the information as the DEA suggests or come up with his own method of segregating out the protected information, and give the DEA a chance to object.
On Tuesday, however, the DEA asked him to reconsider, arguing that the release of the information could endanger confidential informants or law enforcement agents even decades after the reports were written. The DEA appears to contend that the confidential information is too entwined with any nonconfidential information to be adequately segregated.
Lewis scoffed at that suggestion, arguing Friday, "It is much more likely that the government wants to conceal this report because it shows that the government was engaged in illegal trafficking of guns and narcotics which would be politically embarrassing and would require criminal prosecutions of government employees."
Ives' son, 17-year-old Kevin Ives, and his friend, 16-year-old Don Henry, died early Aug. 23, 1987. Their bodies were found on a remote stretch of railroad in Saline County after they were run over by a 4:25 a.m. train.
Though the state medical examiner said they died while in a deep, marijuana-induced sleep on the railroad tracks, an out-of-state pathologist determined they were killed before their bodies were placed on the tracks, where an engineer saw them lying motionless side by side, partially covered by a tarp, unresponsive to the train's horn, just before the train passed over them.
Lewis argued Friday that the documents also "may show that Barry Seal was acting at the request of the United States government which would be embarrassing to the government."
Seal was a notorious pilot who flew in and out of the Mena Airport in Polk County in the 1980s, and testified in 1985 that he had smuggled tons of cocaine from Colombia to drop zones in the Louisiana swamps. The man who was suspected of being an informant for the DEA was killed in an execution-style shooting in 1986 in his hometown of Baton Rouge.
Rumors abounded after the boys' deaths that they may have been killed after stumbling across an illegal drug drop in the area, where low-flying planes had been seen. Newspaper articles, a book and a documentary have all hinted that the deaths could have been related to an undercover government operation in which Seal had been involved.
Because of speculation about possible links between Seal and the boys' deaths, Ives requested information from several government agencies pertaining to both her son and Seal's activities.
On Thursday, Miller denied a request from attorneys for the DEA to give them extra time to turn in their suggested ways for segregating the exempt and non-exempt material. Even though the DEA argued that there is no non-exempt information to supply, Miller insisted that the DEA turn over the requested information to his court by Friday.
Miller wasn't in his office Friday, and it couldn't be determined whether the DEA had submitted anything to his office.
On Thursday, an order in the court file said that the DEA's suggested redactions will be held in Miller's office until the pending motion for reconsideration is decided.
In the response filed Friday, Lewis wrote, "This requestor is not interested in the names of the informants but is interested in what happened. Further, since this information dates from 1983, three years before Barry Seal was murdered and four years before Kevin Ives was murdered, this requestor cannot imagine that this information has anything to do with the murders of Barry Seal and Kevin Ives but only has to do with the illegal actions of the government, which should be public information under the Freedom of Information Act. This requestor has a right to that information whether it pertains to the death of Kevin Ives or not."
In late November, Miller dismissed most of the other defendants Ives had named in the lawsuit: the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Department of Justice's Criminal Division, the State Department, the FBI, the Arkansas State Police, the Saline County sheriff's office and the Bryant Police Department.
In his Aug. 2 order, the judge also dismissed the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys, leaving only the DEA and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as defendants, the latter because Miller said an electronic search the agency conducted in response to Ives' records request wasn't done right. It isn't known if the agency might have any information related to Ives or Seal because the agency wasn't created until Jan. 24, 2003.
A Section on 08/18/2018
Print Headline: Arkansas mom's motion in bid to unseal files says DEA hiding crimes