American Made-Up: photos that prove that Barry Seal was with the CIA in the 1950s and 1960s

CANNABIS CULTURE – The new Tom Cruise action film has been released: American Made.

Most people don’t know who Barry Seal is – especially film critics, who don’t spend their days reading CIA history books. But I do – I have one room of my house dedicated to CIA drug history – and from having read many, many books on the subject, I can assure you, Barry Seal’s life is WAY more interesting than they let on in the movie.
I thought I would share some photos of Seal in the early days, to give you a picture of how involved this guy was in espionage, and just how far back his connection to the CIA went. But first, let me give you an example of one of the more informed reviews of the film:
In the movie, Seal is an ace pilot whose daredevil streak leads him from TWA to the CIA. He’s bored rigid flying commercial flights, so he takes to performing stunts that trigger the oxygen masks and terrify passengers.
His aviation skills and reputation for sailing close to the wind lead to an approach from Schafer, a CIA agent (or possibly a composite of several) played by Domhnall Gleeson (whose father, actor Brendan Gleeson, resembles the stocky real Seal much more than sleek Tom Cruise does). Schafer recruits Seal to take reconnaissance photos of guerrillas operating in Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador, wooing him with a super-fast, super-nimble twin engine plane.
The real-life Seal seems to have joined up with the CIA much earlier. The late investigative journalist Alexander Cockburn contended that Seal first came into contact with the CIA in the ’60s as a special forces helicopter pilot in Vietnam and maintained links with them throughout his TWA years. Other accounts suggest his links might have gone back as far as the Bay of Pigs.

That last statement was quite the understatement. When you see the photos, you will understand why.

Photo 1: This is a photo taken July 23, 1955. Sixteen year-old Baton Rouge Civil Air Patrol cadet Barry Seal boards a U.S. Air Force plane on July 23, 1955 to fly to a two week training camp at Barksdale Air Force Base in Shreveport, Louisiana, where he will meet fellow cadet Lee Harvey Oswald and Capt. David Ferrie.

Photo 2: This is a photo taken August 7, 1955. It is a photo of the Civil Air Patrol Seal joined. Captain of the CAP was CIA agent David Ferrie (second from the left) and fellow cadet Lee Harvey Oswald (far right). The photo was taken at Abita Springs, Louisiana.


Photo 3: This is a photo taken January 22nd, 1963. This is a group of assassins, gun runners and drug smugglers known as “Operation 40” – a special assassination squad originally formed to kill Fidel Castro. It is taken in the Mexico City nightclub, La Reforma.

Leaning over the table in the left front is long time CIA agent Felix Rodriguez. Rodriguez helped the CIA capture and kill Che Guevara, flew guns and drugs with Seal in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, and (like Seal himself) has ties to Iran Contra and Bush Sr.. Behind Rodriguez is Porter Goss – head of the CIA under George W. Bush. Behind him is Barry Seal.

Two back from Seal is Juan Restoy, a man who organized some of his fellow Bay of Pigs veterans into a drug smuggling operation responsible for a large percentage of cocaine and the lion’s share of the heroin coming into the U.S. The 1970 bust of this operation – known as “Operation Eagle” – was the biggest drug bust in history. On the other side of the table in the front sits CIA agent William Seymour and either CIA agent Tosh Plumlee or CIA agent Frank Sturgis, it’s hard to tell because his face is partially covered.

The main source of information about Seal’s life would be the book “Barry and the Boys” by Daniel Hopsicker. In it you can find an comprehensive overview of Barry’s life, including this summation of it’s relevance to American history:

“…Seal participated in many of the signal events in America During the second half of the 20th Century… Running guns to Fidel Castro in the mountains of Cuba … flying at the Bay of Pigs invasion … piloting a get-away plane after the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy … fling into the Golden Triangle during America’s Secret War in Laos … Barry Seal even had a cameo role in the Watergate Scandal.” Barry And The Boys, p. 19

I highly recommend picking up the book – it’s way, way more interesting than the “American Made” Tom Cruise film. Barry’s life was interesting, important, and revealing – his new biopic is not.

David Malmo-Levine