The following transcript was initially posted on pastebin, “Transcript of June 13 1991 October Surprise Conference”. Only changes to the transcript arise through the conveniences of html, with appropriate italics and embedded links. Author of the pastebin document, including transcript, is this site’s manager. Document starts after the line break.
A transcript of a conference on June 13, 1991, sponsored by the Fund For New Priorities, on Youtube as “Christopher Hitchens on Trading Weapons for Iranian Hostages: October Surprise Conspiracy (1991)” and “Christopher Hitchens on the Iran Hostage Crisis and October Surprise (1991)”. This transcript should not imply an endorsement of the conspiracy theory, only an indication that I believe it to be of interest. The theory was often relayed to be as one fostered by lunatics, but those on-stage appear sane, sound, and cautious in their assessments. On the other hand, Barbara Honegger, who hogs the floor with a long statement in the second session, is now well-known for her theories involving UFOs and 9-11 conspiracies. Ari Ben-Menashe, a source frequently mentioned by Honegger and a few others is a mysterious con man, leaving one uncertain how connected he is and when he’s conning you or telling you of actual dealings he was part of.
A 2011 profile of Ben-Menashe can be found here: “The unbelievable life of Ari Ben-Menashe” by Brian Hutchinson.
In 2014, he would register as a lobbyist in the U.S. for the breakaway Libyan province of Cyrenaica: “Notorious Canadian lobbyist signs $2M contract to promote Libya militants aiming to divide country”.
The wikipedia entry for the “Brokers of Death” arms case, involving Cyrus Hashemi, Samuel Evans, and Avraham Bar-Am is here, where charges were brought against the men for selling weapons to Iran, and then dropped when prosecutors were unable to prove that they weren’t doing so under the orders from the U.S. government: “Brokers of Death arms case”.
Contemporary articles on this strange case include “The Katzenjammer Falcon” by James Traub (New York magazine on Google Books) and “Cyrus Hashemi’s Shadow Legecy” by Christopher Byron (also New York magazine on Google Books).
The report on the unsavoury activities of the Ronald Reagan campaign, the report published by the committee headed up by Senator Donald Albosta and referred to here as the “Albosta report”, I have been unable to find anywhere on-line. The Joint Report of the Task Force to Investigate Allegations Concerning the Holding of American Hostages by Iran in 1980 (“October Surprise Task Force”), the report produced by the investigation which this conference hoped to inspire, is available for reading on-line by all and download by those affiliated with participating universities at the Hathitrust site.
Part of why I believe there is the possibility of truth in such astonishing allegations, despite the presence of several frauds surrounding it, is because I know that another attempt to interfere in crucial American diplomacy for the purpose of winning an election did take place and was successful. This previous attempt took place in 1968 and was Richard Nixon’s sabotage of the Paris Peace Talks. An excellent resource on this astonishing event can be found by the tenacious, diligent, and superb reporter Robert Parry: “LBJ’s ‘X’ File on Nixon’s ‘Treason'”.
My own work on this interference by Nixon and his campaign, making vivid the surrounding timeline of this betrayal and its aftermath, accompanied by the relevant audio files of Lyndon Johnson discussing this treason with aides and Nixon himself can be found here: “The Treason of Richard Nixon: From Possibility to Certainty Part One” and “The Treason of Richard Nixon: From Possibility to Certainty Part Two”.
What follows is the conference transcript:
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It is with great interest and excitement, that we now open the formal part of today’s congressional colloquy on “An Election Held Hostage and the October Surprise”. What really happened? This conference, the latest in a series of more than sixty five Capitol Hill conferences held over the past twenty two years, under the auspices of the Fund For New Priorities [in America], promises to rival many of our previous landmark events in its importance, by bringing to the attention of the members of Congress, important issues and dangers to our constitutional democracy. As always, this conference has been brought to you under the sponsorship of members of Congress of both houses. The final list of the sponsors who have responded to the “Dear Colleague” letter which has been circulated in both houses, the letter which was written by senators Adams, Cranston, Harkin, and Wellstone…will be published at the end of this colloquy, with an edited transcript, after the conclusion, obviously, of the proceedings.
The conference is reminiscent of a conference the fund sponsored on March 7 and 8, of nineteen hundred and seventy three. That conference was chaired by Senator Sam Ervin, and assisted by his assistant Rufus Edmondson. And the conference then was entitled, “Congress Versus the Executive”. And at that time, we had seventy five members of the Senate, out of a hundred, who sponsored the conference, and we had over two hundred members of the House, who sponsored that conference. The experience of today’s conference is somewhat different, and is worth some consideration and discussion. But in any event, that conference actually led to the structuring and establishment of the Senate Select Committee on Watergate. And one of the side bits that I’m told frequently, at that conference, was Roger Mudd sitting behind the scenes, alongside me, as Ronald Berger talked at that conference, about impeachment. “It’s in the constitution, gentlemen,” and read the section on impeachment, and Roger Mudd turned to me, and behind scenes whispered, and said, pointing to the senators, who were arrayed on the panel, and the other congressmen, and the words were, “Do you think this bunch of pussycats will ever impeach that S.O.B.?” I said, “Roger,” whispering back, “March 7th is a historic day. It may not seem plausible today, but it may be in the very near future.” It took fourteen or fifteen months after that conference, for actual impeachment proceedings to begin to take place in the House judiciary committee. We have a different situation today, and we hope that we will examine these questions with as much probity, with as much care, as is required.
To serve today as moderator, we are most fortunate to have with us Dr. William Green Miller, currently president of the American Committee on U.S.-Soviet Relations. Dr. Miller happens to be uniquely qualified for this role from his academic background, he has a B.A. from Williams College at Oxford, with a specialization in Middle East Studies, and a distinguished career in consulting on Capitol Hill. Where he has served as staff director of the Select Committee on Intelligence from May 1976 to September 1981, and as staff director of the Select Committee to Study Government Operations from February 1975 to May 1976. The Church Committee, and a stint in foreign service also, from 1959 to 1967. But his qualifications for today’s conference highlight his role in November 1979, when Dr. Miller served as President Carter’s Special Emissary to Iran, in an effort to obtain the release of the hostages then held in Iran.
This mission, actually led to the release of the first group of twelve hostages from Iran. Most Americans do not even remember that today. And on this note, it gives me great pleasure to introduce Dr. Miller, and to set the tone for today’s conference, I would like to quote from the part of this New Yorker magazine’s “Talk of the Town”: “Perhaps the most disquieting legacy of Iran-Contra, in which extremely serious political crimes were exposed, and then left largely unexorcised, is a kind of pervasive moral lassitude. In which charges that the president ial election of 1980 was compromised with the help of the Iranian government evoke an almost bored reaction. It now appears that the charges wll be left to linger unanswered and uninvestigated because no one with any power, sees it to be in his personal interest to confront them.” That’s the end of the quote. We, as American citizens, cannot let this be. Dr. Miller.
DR. WILLIAM GREEN MILLER
This first panel, is aimed at establishing the facts that are known, about these circumstances that have been set before you. The charges, as we all recognize, are very serious, and the charges are of such gravity, that they deserve careful investigation. The people here on this first panel have been engaged in investigation from the outside. Three are journalists, and Gary Sick, on my right, is uniquely qualified to examine this question, having served in the NSC, during the time that these events took place. And as a Middle East scholar, has looked carefully into these issues, since that time. The panelists will discuss the facts as they have been able to discover them, in the course of their work. I think it will become clear that there are many things that remain to be answered. And I hope that one outcome of this panel will be to distinguish between what is known and what deserves to be known through proper investigation and either through Congress or whatever authorities are appropriate. Gary Sick has made it clear that he has not yet come to any conclusions. And it seems to me in the spirit of fairness that people who are here, are here to see what the facts are, and what is not known.
And I would like to begin, first with Gary Sick, who will lay the fact base, and then we’ll turn to Christopher Hitchens, who’s the Washington editor of Harper’s magazine, and columnist for The Nation. And then, Martin Kilian, who is the Washington correspondent for Der Spiegel, and finally, to Joel Bleifuss, columnist for In These Times. Gary, why don’t you open the session?
Well, let me just give a very brief background about how I got to where I am at this point, and sortof where I think we are, at least factually, if possible. I was perhaps one of the most reluctant people in this whole story. I was in the White House when the hostages were released. At that time, there immediately began to be rumors that something had happened, that there was some kind of a deal that was struck…I didn’t think that had happened, I didn’t believe you needed to explain the facts that way, that they could be adequately explained by Iranian internal politics and other events. And, later I wrote a book on the subject, and never even mentioned these rumors or charges. I was approached in the 1988 election when this subject began to emerge very strongly by a number of people asking me to comment on the thing, “Did I think these charges were true?” I recognized at the time that there were certainly some new allegations that were coming up, some new evidence that had to be taken account of, but basically I wasn’t prepared to say that I thought the charges were true. And, curiously enough, even after the 1988 election and all this information had come out, I submitted a book proposal to the Twentieth Century Fund, to write a book about the Reagan administration and Iran, and didn’t even mention this as a possibility to be covered in the book. However, as I started working on that book, I had felt I had to start at the beginning. And I felt that I had to resolve those issues in my own mind once and for all, because everything else that happened between the Reagan administration and Iran, was colored, if this did happen, it made a tremendous difference in the way you analyzed what came later. So, I began working on that as I was working on a number of other issues at the time.
As time went on, and certainly not just because of my own work, but certainly Marin Kilian was crucial in this…he had done far more work than I had and kept filling me in on new information as it went along, and in fact, is probably more than anyone else responsible for why I’m here. He may not like that, but that is a fact, nonetheless. But, gradually as I worked on the issue, I became more and more convinced that something happened. I was building up a detailed chronological base, and things kept falling into a pattern, that I simply couldn’t ignore. And then I began doing interviews myself, and gradually, moved from the side of those who dismissed the idea entirely to what, in my view now, and I say this in all seriousness, there really is no doubt at all in my mind, that there were meetings between the Republican campaign and the Iranians, in the course of the 1980 elections, to discuss the question of the hostages. That, to me, is no longer seriously in doubt. The question is, exactly how did it happen, and, can this fact ever be proved? And I’m not sure we’ll ever have full answers to either of those questions.
Let me outline for you, from my own perspective, based on my own research, what I think happened, and the logic of what happened, and then we can go on from there. I do believe that the people in the Reagan campaign, or the Republican campaign, really, because at the beginning of this thing, in early 1980, there were several Republican campaigns going on. You’ll recall that Mr. Bush was running against Mr. Reagan at that time, and they each had their own separate campaign staff, and I think both of them were in fact interested in this issue at the time. But there was a very deep abiding concern on the part of the Republican campaigns, that the hostage issue would be exploited by President Carter, at a key moment in the election, and upset their campaign plans. Everything else was going their way. The numbers were on their side, in terms of the economy, President Carter was viewed as badly wounded by not only the hostage issue, but a lot of other things that were going on, and I think the Republicans felt, with some justification, that it was their election. That this was going to be their time. And if you’re the campaign manager, you have to think, what do I have to worry about? What do I have to protect myself from? And I think they looked around, and one of the things that struck them, that they did need to protect themselves about, was the hostage issue. The fact that, perhaps the hostages would be released at the last second, or at a key moment, and there would be such a wave of emotional response from the American people, that it would overcome the view of Carter as not qualified, or as someone they weren’t going to vote for, and change their mind.
That, it seems to me, was the essential underlying concern that went on. From the information that I’ve been given, by sources who in fact said they were there when these things happened, Mr. Casey, who became the campaign manager for Mr. Reagan in February of 1980, within a month or two after that, probably within a month, approached some individuals, who were plugged into the Iranian circuit, and who were also, as it turns out, were providing information to the U.S. government. These were men who had been identified by the U.S. government as sources with good access into Iran, and they were providing information to us. Us, being the U.S. government at that time, about what was going on. Mr. Casey got in touch with them, and not to put too fine a point on it, they became double agents. They were working on one hand for the U.S. government, and on the other hand, they were providing information to the people in the Republican campaign. I have this from the fellow who did it. And he – his brother is dead – but he says, that’s his words, “We became double agents.” Working for both sides. That led to a major breakthrough in July of 1980. After the Republican convention, and after Mr. Reagan was nominated, Mr. Casey, I believe Mr. Casey went to Madrid, where he met, through the good offices of these gentlemen he had met earlier, he met with Mr. [Mehdi] Karroubi, who was, at that time, a member of the intimate inner circle of Khomeini, and at that meeting, they talked about the possibility of doing, some kind of an agreement, about the hostages.
Mr. Karroubi went back to Tehran, checked back with, presumably Khomeini, and about ten days later, came back, they had a second meeting, and agreed that in their view, the Iranians would hold the hostages, and make a gift of them, as Mr. Casey put it, according to this source, make a gift of the hostages, to the incoming Reagan administration. In return, for promises of political support, military equipment, unfreezing American assets, and arms. And the arms supply was to begin fairly soon, and to go on after they came into office. That was the nature of the deal, as I understand it, that was done at that time…and the, a number of things happened in the period immediately after that. One, the Iranians being good bargainers, instead of just taking the deal, came to the Carter administration and opened negotiations with us, I think, now, in retrospect, to see if we had something better to offer. Then what they’d been offered from the Republican side. We, of course, didn’t know another offer was already on the table. So, we were negotiating on the basis that we thought we were only negotiating with the Iranians, in fact there may have been a third party associated with the negotiations. We bargained rather hard, actually. And in retrospect, I must say, that it makes us look a little bit naive. We honestly didn’t want to get into a position of providing arms for hostages, as foolish as that may sound these days. We thought that was not the way it should be done, and so, we bargained very hard. They asked us for arms, we held back, we delayed, we tried to give them only partial information, we tried to get out of getting into a position of trading U.S. arms for Iranian hostages.
In the end, just before the election, President Carter agreed that we would return all of the military equipment that Iran had bought and paid for, that was in the United States, that we would return that. But that pledge was not made till very late in October; in the meantime we had been bargaining. If indeed they had had a somewhat different offer from the other side, our offer probably didn’t look very good. In any event, the negotiations went on with the Carter administration, there was at the same time a second rescue mission that was coming to fruition, that had been planned by the Carter administration, at that point there was no intention of using it, we were involved in negotiations with Iran, but the hostage rescue mission was there in case it was needed. I think the Republicans got very worried about that, and that the second rescue mission was going to be used, in late October, to reverse the situation if nothing else happened. There were a number of reasons why the Republicans had reason to begin to get nervous again, although the deal had been done. And my understanding is, that in mid-October, they had another meeting, in Paris, which was attended by Republicans, again Mr. Casey, an Iranian group and a group of Israelis, who were present, to review the deal as it stood at that time, and to make sure that things were as they were supposed to be as they came up to the final days of the election. This was about two weeks before the election.
Immediately after those meetings, which in my view took place about the 15th to the 20th of October, 1980…immediately after that, a whole series of things began to happen very suddenly. Some of the hostages were moved to different locations, as if they were suddenly afraid that a rescue mission was going to happen. There was a secret shipment of military equipment from Israel to Iran, which the Carter administration in fact learned about, and complained to Israel that they were shipping arms to Iran, and they promised not to do it again, but it came within forty eight hours after those meetings were concluded in Paris. There were a whole series of other things that happened. The Majlis, the Iranian parliament, that was charged with responsibility for dealing with the hostage issue, went into a complete stall at that point, and everything came to a halt. Suddenly, nothing could get done with regard to that, and there were a number of other things. Anyway, there was a very active period in those, really seventy two hours, after what I think were the completion of the meetings in Paris. The rest of the story you know quite well, the hostages were not released before the election, Ronald Reagan won the election, the hostages were held, detailed negotiations went on with the Carter administration that were getting no place until the fifteenth of January, 1981…at that point, the Iranians completely reversed themselves, in effect, suddenly after having bargained very, very hard with us, for months, from November to January, the Iranians suddenly reversed themselves totally, and for all practical purposes, paid us to take the hostages back. I mean, that isn’t putting too strong a point on it, that Iran suddenly agreed to bring current all of its loans, which was a terribly costly thing for Iran to do, to resolve the whole banking issue, and there were some technical aspects, but suffice it to say, Iran completely reversed itself and as you all know, on the 20th of January, we had completed all the negotiations for the release of the hostages at eight o’clock in the morning, and all of the information was in Iran’s hands, and they sat and waited until five minutes after Mr. Reagan had taken the oath of office, and at which point they announced that they had agreed to the terms that had been worked out as of eight o’clock that morning, and the hostages were released within half an hour of thereafter. As I say, this did arouse some suspicions at the time, but you could understand it as the Iranians sortof taking one last twist of the knife to Jimmy Carter, and they were quite capable of doing something like that on their own.
What we didn’t know at the time, and I haven’t learned till much later, is that there was a substantial flow of military equipment that began almost immeidately. And it’s probably not too much of an exaggeration to say that as the plane with the hostages took off from Tehran and headed to freedom, other planes were loaded and taking off from Israel going the other way with military equipment. The military equipment continued to flow for some years after that time, from Israel, and always with the knowledge of the U.S. government. This is not a supposition, this is something that high officials in the Israeli government have themselves said publicly, and the people in the U.S. government at the time, that have been interviewed on ths subject…never say that this didn’t happen. They simply say, It wasn’t me, who wasn’t responsible for the reports about these arms that were being sent from Israel to Iran. And that’s basically the structure of the story. What don’t we know about this? We don’t know a lot of things. And, my suspicion is that a lot of things are not going to be known. I regard this as a professional intelligence operation, a covert action, that was done certainly with the assitance and participation of professionals. They didn’t, I’m sure, go around leaving stray memos in their wake, I suspect there were no photographs taken of Mr. Casey sitting with Mr. Karroubi in a hotel room in the Ritz Hotel in Madrid. And so forth. I mean, so if you’re looking for a smoking gun, if that is what it takes, a transcript or a tape of the meeting, of Mr. Casey talking to Mr. Karroubi, you know, I suspect that we’re not going to find that smoking gun. There are many things, however, that we could learn that simply have not been available to individuals who have been working on this story, on their own, and with really very limited resources. Some of those things that we could learn, certainly there are…I would like very much, for instance, to simply look at the campaign records. Up until now, all of our efforts to look at the Republican campaign records have met a stone wall from Mr. Meese, who is responsible for the campaign records, and he has refused to let anybody have a peek at anything in those campaign records, which are out in California now. So that would be an interesting place to start.
I would like very much to look at Mr. Casey’s diaries, travel records and the like, I think we might learn a great deal. And obviously, if this isn’t true, if it’s…that’s where we’re going to find out it isn’t true. We need to have hard documentary evidence that says either Mr. Casey was missing on those days, or he did travel on those days, or he didn’t. And if he didn’t, let’s find out about it. I think that…but we have to look at the records. A simple denial – “I think he was around all that week” – is not really enough to take care of the issue. It’s more serious than that. There are flight records, we know the tail numbers of some of the aircraft that were involved in these operations. I would like very much to have access to FAA records that would identify those. I would like to have passports subpoenaed, of certain individuals to see what the stamps are on certain dates of travel. There are tapes that were made of Mr. Hashemi, Cyrus Hashemi, who was working as I say, in fact as a double agent, his office was bugged during a good part of that period. That is now known for sure, he was indicted later on the basis of those tapes. Where are the tapes? I would love to know what Mr. Hashemi was saying in his office and on his telephone during that period of October 1980. We’ve not been able to get our hands on those tapes. There are a number of places one could look. Is that going to solve all of our problems or answer all of our questions? Probably not.
But we’re never going to be able to answer even the basic questions until we look at the material that is presumably available and can only be gotten through a subpoena. So, I will end my lengthy opening statement.
Thank you, Gary. [applause] Christopher Hitchens, as a journalist could you…add to the structure of the fact situation, and really address the question from the point of view of a journalist of what kinds of information you think to be important to know, for the public to know.
There’s a terrible character in a Moliere play called Monsieur Jordan who’s appalled later to discover late in life that he’s been speaking prose his entire career. I find I’ve been writing about the October Surprise often without knowing it. Since 1984, when I got interested in the belated discovery that there had indeed been an attempt to destabilize President Carter’s re-election effort, and that one of the fruits of that destabilization was the presence in the Republican camp of his presidential papers. In other words, we learned in 1984 that in rehearsing for his debate for President Carter, Governor Reagan rehearsed in the same way as President Carter did. That’s to say by reading President Carter’s briefing book. In other words, there’s prima facie evidence for some skullduggery. The word used for the practice by David Stockman at the time was “filching”. Other, more evasive words were used by alternatively amnesiac Mssrs. Casey and Baker, who said they had got the book from the other one.
A very unsatisfactory inquiry was set up by Congress, without subpoena power, without public hearings. Speaker O’Neill was so anxious on behalf of the Democratic Party that the American electorate forget the name “Jimmy Carter”, that he helped to ensure that the inquiry went nowhere. But a professor at an American university here that I became friendly with at the time, John Bansoft, demanded that there be a Special Prosecutor, and took the matter to Judge Harold Green, of this jurisdiction. I decided to quote [for] you what Judge Green said, in replying to the hysterical campaign mounted against the proposal for an investigation of Debategate, by the then Attorney General. Judge Greene accused the Attorney General of utterly misunderstanding the Ethics in Government Act, and criticized the notion, established in prima facie evidence in the investigation of Debategate, and I quote from the judge, “that there had been an information gathering apparatus, employed by a presidential campaign which uses former agents of the FBI and the CIA.” That was the judge in upholding the subsequently defeated motion for a Special Prosecutor. Now, I just kept my files on the Debategate matter, which was successfully thwarted and derailed as an investigation, and then read them again once I was able to read the Iran-Contra testimony. In other words, I read the two of them against one another. It’s a course of action I recommend to people who are interested in this hypothesis, because it makes the following supposition thinkable: all the evidence found by the Albosta Committee, that investigated the theft of President Carter’s papers, showed that the Republicans were principally worried about the President’s diplomacy in relation to Iran. That they’d set up under the chairmanship of Ed Meese and Bill Casey, what they themselves termed an October Surprise Committee. That they’d hired some acting, some former, and some serving, agents of the Central Intelligence Agency and other military organizations, to monitor airports, airfields, other centers, to see what movement there might be in relation to Iran. And to report back. That they had established moles, somewhere, we still don’t know where, within President Carter’s national security apparatus.
Then…that’s all on the record from the first thwarted inquiry. From the second derailed inquiry, the Iran-Contra inquiry, we learned there was another unsolved matter which was, when did this Iran-Contra connection begin? In other words, when did the Iranian bit begin? In the hysterically deceitful press conference that he gave in November of 1986, Attorney General Meese sent everyone haring down the opposite road, the road that led towards Nicaragua, and towards the future. And blocked any attempt to ask the question, when did your covert military relationship with Iran begin? Because if that question was to be asked…if, for example, it was to be established that weapons were going to Iran in 1981, it couldn’t very well be argued that they were going to trade for hostages. Because there were no hostages in ’81, in Tehran, and in ’81, there weren’t any yet in Beirut. Nor, at that stage, was it even argued by the Republicans that there were any moderates to deal with in Tehran. In other words, the usual alibis wouldn’t do. So, this question, in other words, could not be asked. And it was intriguing and sometimes entertaining to see the lengths to which that question was avoided. As I say, put that question together with the evidence of funny business in the 1980 campaign, that was already on the record, and you had a working hypothesis. Which I first printed in 1987.
Now, when people want to change the subject in this country, especially if they want to discredit a witness, or a hypothesis, the easy recourse is to the words “conspiracy theory”, about which I want to say a little. Unless you want a total moral and intellectual relativist, who believes that all facts have the same weight, and convey the same values, life is impossible without theory. There must be, in other words, the mind must attempt to explain arrangements of fact. The usual convenience term used here is “hypothesis”. If my hypothesis was true, that there was a thread linking the Debategate inquiry to the Iran-Contra inquiry, and that it would have taken the form of a bargain, made covertly, between the Reagan campaign and the Ayatollah…if it were true, I’d need to find evidence in two places. There’s no such evidence at the time. But the two places I’d need to find it, would be in the fall of 1980, and in the spring of 1981. I’d have to find evidence that there had been meetings between Reagan campaign people and envoys of the Ayatollah, in the fall of 1980. And I’d have to find evidence that there’d been arms traffic between the United States and Iran in early ’81. Didn’t have any such evidence at the time, so I confined myself to saying that this was a hypothesis. It’s in precisely those two places that all the evidence has since surfaced. Very largely due to the efforts of Martin Kilian and Gary Sick. But many others too. And I think it warrants one in saying, not that there is insufficient evidence, but that there is appallingly too much evidence. That this sort of skullduggery took place. I myself am very impressed by the quantity and the quality of the evidence. Since I’m speaking in a personal capacity, I can drop the polite conditional tone that’s been adopted since our proceedings began this morning and say, I certainly have no doubt whatever, of what happened in that case, and I am impressed as Gary Sick is in another connection, by the way all evidence that turns up, all evidence always points in the same direction.
In other words, if there is a conspiracy, the evidence is taking part in it. The facts are conspiring. And I’m certainly impressed when facts conspire, as they do in this case. Now, I mustn’t overrun my time, but I thought one could summarize by saying what we knew, and what we speculated. Was there an attempt to destabilize the Democrat re-election campaign in 1980? Yes there was. That can be stated beyond doubt. Was it the Iran hostage crisis that provided the weak link for that destabilization? The answer to that is yes. Was that fact known consciously by the Republican campaign operatives? Yes, it was. Whatever might have been the outcome of the 1980 election, we know from their internal discussions that they believed that only a hostage release could save President Carter from defeat. In other words, the state of mind, the Mens Rea, is important. Was there undisclosed contact between Reagan envoys and Iranian envoys in that period, the answer is undoubtedly yes. Did both sides after 1981 behave as if they had made a secret understanding of arms for hostages, except in reverse? Yes. The answer is that they did so behave as if they’d come to a secret understanding. Now, was there sabotage of the hostage rescue mission or missions? I would say, we are not certain. Did Reagan know? A question people can’t even bring themselves to ask. Did the president know? You notice people think, “Oh, let’s not go into that.” My answer is, of course it’s impossible to prove cognition with Reagan, that’s already been demonstrated. I have the feeling that it probably was done without his knowledge or consent, and I also have the feeling that the later theory, that untruthfully stated, that he had not been told and did not know, and which he had been and did, of the Iran-Contra diversion, was probably evolved as the cover story in case they were caught in 1980. I think there are elements of that cover story were used for a later scandal with only partial success.
Was the current president of the United States and leader of the free world in any way directly or personally involved? We can’t be clear about that, we can be clear that some of his subordinates in the world in which he was best qualified, that is to say, the world of secret intelligence and covert operations were closely concerned, and we do have an unbroken record of lying by the president when he is asked about the meetings he has attended where either arms or hostages are discussed. If you look up Theodore Draper’s history of Iran-Contra, I forget the exact page numbers, but there are three pages which handily summarize and condense the number of occasions on which the president has lied flat out about his participation in meetings where an unconstitutional arms for hostage trafficking was discussed. In other words, a presidential denial of the sort that we recently had from George Bush carries for this purpose, for the purpose of any intellectually serious investigation, no weight at all. As Gary Sick says, and I’ll close on this point and hand it over to Martin, all the fresh evidence does have the uncanny faculty of fitting the hypothesis that I and some others have been advancing since 1987 and if it were true, it would explain why it is that this Republic occasionally, rather more often than is comfortable, needs to convene its Congress into special sessions in order to find out sometimes what the government is doing, and sometimes who the government is. If we are to be relieved of this distressing necessity in the future, it would be as well that we acted with more respect to the recent past. Thank you. [applause]
I want to keep my remarks very short, so you people have enough time for questioning. And I think what I might do, is just give a short rundown on how this started, and where it is, and the promises and the problems of it, because there certainly are problems with it. I started working this two and a half years ago, and after a while it appeared to me probably the problem of getting this story home in the U.S. were almost overwhelming. So, we decided, by we I mean the magazine [Der Spiegel], because I have the backing of my editors for that, we decided to go around in Europe a little bit. And in the fall of 1988, early December ’88, I was about to throw the towel in. Because I felt that the information we had at the time, people like Richard Brenneke and others, there might be something to it, but it wasn’t good enough. There were also glaring contradictions, there were people who obviously lied to us, and so it didn’t amount to much. And I think at this point I probably would have given up if it hadn’t been several trips to Europe…lo and behold, in Europe we found several people who gave us rather detailed descriptions of what had happened in the fall of 1980. The problem with them was, that they were not willing to go on the record. One of them, as a matter of fact, was severely threatened, and at least as he told us, and he refused to talk with us anymore.
But, talking to an intelligence official, a former intelligence official in France, talking to a German arms dealer who was very, very intimately connected to the Iranian leadership, I came to the conclusion that either something indeed had happened in the fall of 1980, or it was a conspiracy of lying. Some kind of disinformation campaign to besmirch or smear American officials who had been in the Reagan-Bush campaign in 1980. Now, even after two and a half years, I can’t rule out that a lot of what people have been telling me and a lot of other people is not true, but if you take all what we have, I think you have to be really, really paranoid to believe that there are witnesses and informants on three continents popping up over two and a half years, that all of them are supposed to be lying or all of them are disinforming.
Let’s get into the hard facts. The facts we have, and I want to expand on one thing which neither Gary nor Chris have mentioned, we do know about the meeting on October 2nd, 1980, between Mr. Allen and Mr. [Lawrence] Silberman and Mr. McFarlane. I believe Richard Allen, that he wasn’t going there to do any monkey play, but: I think it would be very important to know why Mr. McFarlane importuned Mr. Allen to come to this meeting; I would like to know why a then Senate Arms Committee staffer brought an Iranian to a meeting of two high ranking Reagan campaign officials and I would like to know what they really talked about. Perhaps Mr. McFarlane could clear this up. And it’s up to him perhaps to answer that.
The second hard fact we have is that yes, there was an intelligence operation against Jimmy Carter. There’s no doubt about it, we have the Albosta Committee report. The third hard fact are the weapons. And I think it’s not just weapons from Israel. I do think you see a pattern of private or semi-private arms dealers in Europe, in 1981 and following, shipping arms to Iran. It is very possible that even those operations were connected to something which might have happened in the fall of 1980. The other thing is, we went to a former high ranking German official, who told us that starting in 1981, stuff out of NATO’s stores was shipped out of area. The Germans had to be notified of this; as treaties require, but they did not want to know what happened to the stuff. We were talking big numbers of material. And have a pick: it was either shipped to Angola, Afghanistan, or Iran, or all three of them. The fourth fact, and that is the most interesting one, and nobody has talked about that…in late July, 1980, Richard Nixon was in London. And the London Sunday Telegraph reported that Mr. Nixon at that time tried to get British ex-commandos to help him free the hostages in Tehran. Now, when the Sunday Telegraph, in a very nice story, approached the Nixon people about this, Nixon’s spokesperson first said, “We neither confirm nor deny it.” Later, they denied it. I think they’re not telling us the truth. I think Mr. Nixon was there; I think he talked about the hostages with British officials, and I think it should be asked by the Congressional panel if it ever comes to pass, what the ex-president was doing there.
One more point, about George Bush. I never really thought George Bush was in Europe. I think it’s a non-starter. I might be wrong. But: the question is not whether the President was in 1980 in Paris. The question is whether people in the Reagan-Bush campaign met in Paris, Madrid, Zurich, Rowley, Frankfurt, with Iranians. And I hope that we will have more in the next six to eight months. I think we have to be very patient. And I am prepared, I am still prepared at this late date, that the whole thing is nothing but a huge disinformation campaign, but it would be hard, I would be very hard pressed to believe that. Thank you.
Joel Bleifuss, please.
In 1980, private citizens connected with the Reagan Bush campaign made a deal with representatives of the Ayatollah Khomeini to delay the release of fifty two American hostages held in Iran until after the election, in order to insure that Carter would not win the election with a last minute release of the hostages. In return, the campaign guaranteed the delivery of weapons and spare parts that Iran desperately needed for its war against Iraq. For four years I’ve been writing about this, using the adjective “alleged” to preface the word “deal”. But let’s not kid ourselves, I firmly believe it happened. Read through the nine hundred and eighty six page collection of documents and news clippings that David Marx has compiled you that is at the front door. Or read the two thousand four hundred and thirteen Albosta report on the theft of President Carter’s briefing books prepared by the House Committee on Post Office and Civil Service. Those two thousand four hundred and thirteen pages provide some details of an intelligence operation that entailed, in addition to the theft of President Carter’s briefing books, the creation of two October Surprise groups within the campaign. One of those groups, headed by William Casey, included Richard Wirthlin, Pete Daley, and Ed McGarrick. The other, which was headed by Richard Allen, included Fred Eckel, John Layman, and Admiral Thomas Moorer. On page fifty seven of the report, the Committee describes how it was informed that, I quote, “highly placed member of the U.S. intelligence committee [community], with links to the Reagan-Bush committee, leaked to the press about a deal being negotiated in October 1980, between Carter and Iranian president, Bani-Sadr, that would have traded hostages for spare parts.” At least in part. The report goes on to say, that the committee looked into this allegation, but decided not to publish the results of that inquiry because it could not discover the identity of this highly placed member of the U.S. intelligence committee.
In light of the current charges, perhaps staff reports from the Albosta investigation should be resurrected. And on a speculative note, perhaps the relevant congressional committees should now probe the actions during 1980 of two highly placed members in the U.S. intelligence committee who worked in the Carter White House, and went on to see their careers prosper in the Reagan and then Bush administrations. Robert Gates, who in 1980 was the top aide to CIA director Stansfield Turner, and Donald Gregg, who is the CIA liaison to the National Security Council. The affidavits in volume two of the Albosta report are also of interest. There you will find an outbreak of collective memory loss similar to that which plagued those who brought this country Watergate and Iran-Contra, from Richard Allen to Margaret Tutwiler, to George Will, who you will remember prepped Reagan for his October 28th debate with Carter, no one has been able to recall how the Carter debriefing books found their way out of the White House, and into the hands of public citizen Ronald Reagan. The question now before Congress, is whether in addition to stealing Carter’s briefing notebooks, this cabal of would-be presidents and their friends stole the 1980 election.
A good number of people claim knowledge of a series of October meetings in Paris, where details of the deal were worked out. Among those who are alleged to have been at that meeting are William Casey, George Bush, and Donald Gregg, at the time, a U.S. official, a man who would later express interest in re-supplying the copters. These meetings are alleged to have taken place two weeks before what was a very close election. So, one would expect the campaign records would be able to explain where campaign manager Casey and vice presidential candidate George Bush’s days in question. The Bush Administration tried to explain just that last year when the Justice Department charged Portland arms dealer Richard Brenneke with making false declarations in court. In the fall of 1988, Brenneke had testified before a federal judge that he was present at a Paris meeting where details of the deal were being hammered out. The U.S. attorney prosecuting Brenneke last year sought to prove Brenneke was lying, providing alibis for Casey, Gregg, and Bush. But the government failed to come up with satisfactory alibis for all three and in the end, the jury unanimously found Brenneke not guilty. Gregg, in fact, left his ambassador’s residence in Seoul, South Korea, and went to Portland as a government witness. Gregg told the court that he was on Bethany Beach, Delaware, and offered as proof photos of him and his family basking in the sun. The problem for Gregg is that according to U.S. Weather Service satellite photos, it was cloudy that weekend.
As for Bush’s alibi, you can take your pick. The Paris meetings are said to have taken place on October 18th and 19th, 1980, perhaps October 20th. During that weekend, two weeks before what was a very close election, candidate Bush disappeared from public view for twenty hours. Enough time to jet to Paris, attend a meeting, and jet back. Just hypothetically, where was George? Bush administration has been working overtime to provide an alibi, but these overeager efforts apparently have not been co-ordinated. In the fall of 1988, Republican presidential campaign workers explained that Bush spent these unaccounted hours at the Chevy Chase country club on private business. That story was supported by a heavily redacted Secret Service report that said that Bush was at the club with unknown parties. In May, 1990, at the Brenneke trial, where this report again surfaced, the Justice Department offered two Secret Service agents as witnesses to explain Bush’s whereabouts, with unconvincing lackluster testimony, the two had trouble making their case. On October 22nd, 1991, a few days after Gary Sick’s piece appeared in the New York Times, and Robert Parry’s Frontline documentary aired on PBS, Vice President Quayle was asked on Detroit’s ABC affiliate where Bush was that weekend in October. Quayle said he didn’t know, but that he promised to get back to the station with an answer. The next day, the Vice President’s office faxed a Bush itinerary which stated that on Sunday October 19th, Bush spent all day at home at Washington without a Secret Service escort. On May 8, the Wall Street Journal’s Gordon Kovitz provided a third Bush itinerary for his lost weekend. Kovitz wrote, “Sunday, Washington D.C. Lunch with Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart and Mrs. Stewart. This alibi originates with the Secret Service which several months ago provided that information to the Government Accounting Office. Apparently, brunching with the Supreme Court Justice looks more presidential than an overnight visit to a Washington country club with private parties unknown.
Further, the brunch with the Stewarts cannot be confirmed; the Judge is dead and his wife suffers chronic memory loss. Also, on May 8, Jerry Sepper weighed in with a fourth alibi: he reported Bush was at home with the Secret Service escort, unlike the previous Quayle alibi which said the Secret Service wasn’t present. Pepper wrote, quote: “The Secret Service says he awoke at about six thirty Sunday, had lunch at his Washington home, and spent the day there preparing a speech for the Zionist Organization of America in Washington.” The three other brief points to be considered that have been brought up before: something happened between October 11 and October 22 which caused Iran in its on-going negotiations with the Carter administration to drop the demand that would have linked the release of hostages to the guarantee that the U.S. would supply Iran with spare parts that it desperately needed for its war with Iraq. The hostages, as it has been said, were released moments after Reagan was sworn in. And U.S. arms started flowing into Iran immediately thereafter.
Did this deal take place? The allegations should at least be investigated with the same thoroughness and, I would say, more that was given the Reagan-Bush campaign’s theft of the Carter briefing books. I believe these allegations raise a number of serious questions, and I’ll mention two. There is a question as to how this 1980 arms for hostages deal is affecting the Middle East peace process. It is alleged that Israel was the middleman in the arms deal. Is Israel using its knowledge now of this affair to influence the Bush administration’s negotiations? Intelligence Newsletter of Paris reports that when Israeli Prime Minister Shamir was in Washington last year, he presented Bush with two files, one of which contained information on what George [Bush] knew and when he knew it. But that concern is perhaps a political one. There is a second, and I think, broader philosophical question about what- and that involves what is the job of Congress? To borrow half a metaphor from Virginia Woolf, does the U.S. Capitol represent the cranium of a constitutional democracy? Or, merely an exalted lid that is keeping some pretty nasty stuff from spilling into the public view? [applause]
We have about twenty minutes for questions from the floor. And I’m sure the panelists would be happy to address any issues here.
Before you do that, we’re joined by Senator Wellstone, one of the initiating sponsors. Senator Wellstone has an interest in this as one of the initiating sponsors, he’s been here for a few minutes, do you have anything you wanted to say to our assembled gathering before you have to leave, Senator Wellstone?
I think I’ll just let the discussion go on, I’ve just been very interested in what’s been said, and I do find myself in very strong agreement with the sentiment that’s been expressed here, which is there should indeed be hearings and a real investigation. It’s such an important question. You don’t need to pre-judge the answer, but it’s an important question, that goes to the very heart of the kind of questions that should be researched. So, I’m here as a supporter of this gathering today. [applause]
Would you identify yourselves when you ask questions.
…staff of the Foreign Relations Committee. I wonder if Gary Sick would be willing to describe the perspective from inside the White House…in, I guess it was September or October of 1980, when it appeared that there was going to be a release of the hostages. President Carter delivered an early morning press statement and then apparently it happened thereafter.
The date I think…the question as I understand it is, an event that took place in the White House at a point when President Carter made an early morning announcement, that certain things were going to happen, and then they didn’t happen. You said September, in fact, I believe the date you’re referring to is April 1st, 1980, that was before the rescue mission…but it was during the primaries. In fact, it was the morning of the Wisconsin primary, and this event has lived on in the mythology of the time. In fact, William Casey cited that, the events as he understood them of April 1st, 1980, as one of the reasons why he was convinced Carter would misuse the hostage issue to his own benefit. And what happened on that morning, is that President Carter had given the Iranians a deadline. He said that they were supposed to move the hostages into the care of the government, away from the hostage takers, away from the students, by the end of March. That date ran out. And Carter was prepared on the end, the day before, to make a statement. He was prevailed upon, and I was in that meeting, especially by Secretary Vance, to please hold off, because we had information that Boni-Sadr was going to make a speech the next day in which he would in fact announce that the government was going to take custody of the hostages. Carter hesitated, because he had put things off many other times, and he was always being accused of wishy-washy behavior, and he finally said, “Alright. I’ll see you here in the morning at five o’clock. At the Oval Office, and we’ll see.” What he had to say. Five o’clock in the morning is what, uh, noon or thereabouts in Tehran. Noon to one o’clock. We all re-assembled at five o’clock in the morning in the Oval Office, on the morning of April 1st…Bani-Sadr’s speech was, in fact, coming in, in bits and pieces, from the FBIS that was transmitting, the Foreign Broadcast Information Service, that was translating the speech, and in that, Bani-Sadr, in fact, did say the words that he said he was going to say, that is, that if the United States fulfilled certain responsibilities, the hostages would, in fact, be moved to the custody of the government.
Carter then, according to the rules of the game, was supposed to reply in some form to say, “OK, we’ve got a deal.” Carter put out a statement that morning, which was carefully worded, which said that he saw this as a positive sign, a move forward, and certainly welcomed the idea of the hostages being moved into the care of the government and away from the others, and that the United States would take positive note of this…something to that effect. That was, of course, on the morning of the Wisconsin primary. And, Carter won the Wisconsin primary handily. And, part of, as I say, what I consider as someone who was at the meeting, part of the mythology is, that this whole thing was cooked up by Carter to use the hostages to win the Wisconsin primary. That this was all done on that basis. That was not my impression, looking at it from the White House point of view, but in many cases, your impression from the inside was less important than the impression from the outside, and certainly the media, I think 100%, felt that this was manipulation of the hostage issue for political benefit and that has lived on, in the time. But that’s my recollection of what it looked like from the inside.
…there’s a relationship between that, what transpired subsequent, which was they were not transferred to the government, and the other negotiations that were going on with the Republican campaign.
I don’t think so. My impression is that Khomeini, in effect, vetoed subsequently the speech that Bani-Sadr had made. Bani-Sadr had made this promise, within a few days Khomeini publicly vetoed that, said that was not what was going to happen, and the hostages were not turned over in fact to the care of the government, and that led to Carter’s decision to launch the rescue mission. And that decision was taken within a week after that April 1st announcement, which was then vetoed, turned around, and that’s when Carter decided to go with the rescue mission. Which took place on the 24th. I don’t think it had anything to do with what was going on in the Republican campaign at that time. Except, as I say, it shaped attitudes for Mr. Casey, certainly. And he’s on record as saying that this was a deciding moment for him, in seeing how Carter would abuse the system and manipulate the system for his own political benefit.
Given the rivalry, the continued rivalry between radicals and pragmatists in Tehran, why, in your opinion, have we not heard more from the Iranian side of this? Other than Mr. Karroubi.
The question is, in view of the competition between rival factions in Tehran, why haven’t we heard more about it from the Iranian side. I can’t go into elaborate detail in this case, but I do believe, in fact, that the reason we’re hearing about Madrid, which after all was something we didn’t know about…eight months ago, none of us really knew about any meetings in Madrid. We had some inklings that there had been meetings elsewhere, but it was very fuzzy and very vague. And from my point of view, the new information about those meetings, which put a beginning on the story in effect, and a sort of structure for the thing, wasn’t a last second business that was cobbled together in October just before the elections, but in fact, there was a beginning to this story, and there was a certain logic and structure to it, was one of the things that made me change my mind about this whole issue, that I finally reluctantly said, you know, this…the reason why that information suddenly became available, in my view, is because of rivalries in Tehran. Where people who had been told to keep their mouth shut, previously, were suddenly let to be known that they could talk about this issue to some degree. And I really genuinely believe that that’s why we got the information on the Madrid meeting. So in that sense, they have. Otherwise, there has been dead silence. They have not published the story, in the Iranian papers…you gotta remember, this is dynamite in Iran also. Because it indicates that certain factions who may be at each other’s throats now, but who were united at that time, were colluding with the United States and Israel, at a time of high ideological fervor. And while the hostages were being held. That is something they have to be very very careful about. Talking about publicly in Iran. I think what we’ve seen is, the Iranians have allowed other people to speak on their behalf. And that that’s what we’re getting in terms of these sources.
…for The Independent. Two questions for Gary Sick. In your famous op-ed piece, you said that you hadn’t made your mind up about whether President Bush was there. I wondered if your mind had changed in either direction. And secondly, as to the overall October Surprise theory, what piece of evidence would, do you think now needs to come out in public, which would either prove or disprove, and how would that happen? Who’d be in a position to release that?
Let me be very brief. I have not changed my mind, I’m exactly where I was before, and I think Joel Bleifuss did an excellent job of laying out, it’s not so much that I believe George Bush was in Paris, I mean I would be prepared to believe in a moment he wasn’t, it doesn’t make any sense. It would be a stupid thing for him to do, it would be extremely risky. What keeps me from coming to that conclusion is the fact that Bush’s story keeps changing all the time. This should be the easiest thing in the world to prove. All you have to do is pull out the Secret Service records and say, here’s where he was, that’s it, let the people on the team be interviewed, that’s the end of the game. That’s the end of the story. They’ve never done that. And I simply can’t understand why. If they really want to lay this to rest, they haven’t done it. Where are the documents, where are the facts? This is nothing secret. Secondly, what is it that needs to be known? Well…I’ve been working on this, as has, other people have, certainly Martin has, for the last two years or more. Putting together little bits and pieces of information. I do not operate on the basis that there is going to be a sudden revelation from heaven, the skies will open, everything will become clear. That is not the way this story works. It’s put together in little bits and pieces, like a large mosaic, and we’ve got quite a little bit of the landscape identifiable in that mosaic right now. But there are large gaping holes. I don’t think they’re going to be filled in by one single piece of information.
Yes, the lady here.
Yes, Barbara Honegger, the author of October Surprise. I would like to know, Gary, what specific dates if we have them, these Madrid meetings happened on, because as you know, this is really the one significant new piece of information that was not already published in my book in 1989.
The dates for the meetings in Madrid…unfortunately, there’s some other people doing research on this, and I can’t steal their material, at this point. Let me be somewhat more general than I would like to be, but it really is someone else’s information, and I simply have to respect that at this point. I would say, from the 25th to the 29th of July, and from the, let’s say the tenth to the fifteenth of August. And that in those time periods, there were in each case, probably two different meetings. So they would have a meeting one day adjourn, and have a meeting the next day, and then they would go home. And then come back later, and have another set of, a dual set of meetings. That’s my understanding at the moment…
Can you identify any individuals, as you have already, besides Mr. Karroubi and Mr. Casey?
There are allegations…I have…my basic rule of thumb on identifying individuals who are involved, is that I want to have at least two, and I would prefer to have three different sources, before I make any public statements. And I don’t have that as yet.
May I re-phrase it then? Without giving the names, how many individuals in addition to Mr. Casey, from the Republican camp, or Republican sympathizers and also on the Iranian side in addition to Mr. Karroubi numbers?
In the meetings themselves, for which I have an eyewitness, Mr. Casey was accompanied by two individuals.
…you say somebody else’s information, is that somebody from Congress, Congress side who’s investigating-
No, it’s not.
-or is it some media?
Was Mr. Karroubi accompanied by anyone?
Yes. Mr. Karroubi was accompanied by his brother Hassan, who shows up in the Iran-Contra affair later on, and he was also accompanied by a couple of revolutionary guards.
Harvey Wasserman, from the Columbus Free Press. A lot of the speculation has centered on whether or not George Bush actually went to Paris, and I think it’s been demonstrably, or well-stated, that that may ultimately be a red herring. It seems inconceivable that such negotiations could have gone on, between the Reagan-Bush campaign, and the Iranians, without George Bush knowing about it. Whether or not he went to Paris, but I have a question and a quick follow-up. Isn’t it possible that the Iranians, who many people believe, that they believe the real power in the U.S. did lie with the CIA, and therefore would have rested with George Bush, who was its former head, isn’t it possible that in order to seal this arrangement, they would have demanded George Bush’s personal presence, if not in Paris, then perhaps meeting with Mr. [Mohammed Ali] Rajai in New York, or some other personal contact with George Bush at some point along in the negotiations? And I have a quick follow-up.
I mean, I think one might as well take that as your statement. I mean, yeah, that seems…there’s reason to that, I’d only add to it, it ought to be born in mind that American democracy wasn’t the only loser in this affair. That by dealing directly with the hostage takers and with the people around Khomeini, in effect a great blow was dealt at the one chance of representative government in Iran as well. Bani Sadr government was badly undercut by this process of negotiation. So it adds to the rather large mountain of debt that we owe the Iranian people for past and present interventions in their internal affairs.
…people who’ve said that they were at these meetings, that Bush’s presence was required, because, you know, he would sortof lend weight to the negotiations and they wanted a commitment from somebody who would be in power.
The follow-up is, of course the Carter administration did make a failed attempt to rescue the hostages and did discuss a second one, this would be for Mr. Sick. My understanding is that both Oliver North and Richard Secord were involved in one or both of those operations. Could you discuss that please?
To the best of my knowledge, Richard Secord was not involved in the first, he was the Deputy Commander of the second, and was the man who was primarily responsible for putting it together. Oliver North, if he was involved at all, he was a very young officer at the time, I’ve been told by people, and I simply cannot verify this, I’ve not personally verified the information, that he was in a unit that in fact was deployed to Turkey during the first rescue mission in case it was needed. I’ve been told that, I have absolutely no hard evidence of it, and I make no claims of it. If so, he was very much on the fringes of the operation. As far as I know, neither Secord nor North were involved in the direct planning or execution of the first rescue mission.
May I comment on that?
No, she’s had- You’ve had far too many-
There’s another questioner beside you.
I’d like to state more briefly the question that ended the original press conference, there is this, this ominous undertone to this, about there being sortof two governments here in the United States, there are two alternative explanations of that, one is that all you had was the Reagan-Bush campaign group that was getting ready to be the government anyhow, but there’s this other group of covert operation experts that were inside the Central Intelligence Agency, that had been removed from government, that President Carter has referred to in his Village Voice interview. What do you understand, Mr. Sick and any of the other panelists, to be the relationship, if any, between that group of disgruntled CIA covert operations specialists and this entire operation, that took on the tone of a covert operation?
Well, let me say this, from my understanding, and again, I’m speaking only on the basis of fragmentary evidence that when Mr. Casey became director of CIA, that in many cases he felt that to run a proper intelligence organization, you shouldn’t just use the people inside the organization who can be identified under light cover in embassies and things of the sort, but that you should have them under deep cover, in other words, they should not be directly affiliated with the agency, and some of those people as I understand it correctly, did in fact end up in rather interesting jobs, places, later on, where, presumably they could act outside the realm, again of, not only of possible penetration by the enemy, but also, penetration by Congress. So, if these people were not actually working for you, you don’t have to account for them, and they don’t have to be subject to Congressional oversight. Now, I’ve heard convincing evidence that that happened in certain cases, I can’t name a list of twenty people, we do know that some of those people showed up again in “The Enterprise” [the name of the group involved in getting money for the Contras by selling weapons to Iran], in the Iran-Contra affair, and they did. So I, to me, it’s not difficult at all to believe that some of those people who were removed from the CIA, ended up coming back, working for the campaign, perhaps working off the books for Mr. Casey, and showing up again in covert operations here and there. That was their profession, they were good at it, and they probably wanted to get back in the game again. So, that doesn’t surprise me. I do, as I say, and I’ve said before, I do part company with you, in the sense that these people constitute a second government that is somehow making policy for the United States.
I’d just like to make a comment on your comment about Richard Secord, if I may. And that is that I have with me published sources that I will give you after the meeting, that Mr. Secord was in fact involved with the logistical arrangements for the [unintelligible] Egypt site. In the Desert One operation.
…Zeitung. Did any body of you during the long investigations, come across any piece of information that might be, in one way or the other, important to the assessment of Robert Gates?
I’ve talked to former Israeli intelligence official, named Ari Ben-Menashe, and he has talked about Gates in connection with 1980. And being involved in this deal. And that’s the only source I have on the record for this. And I think it’s sortof published speculation at this point. But I think it’s something that could be investigated. And it’s also…it is apparent, I think, that there was somebody in the Carter White House who was passing information on to the Republican Party. And it would seem that Gates would be one person that could be looked into.
Mr. Sick, what about the tapes? You mentioned the tapes, and you haven’t elaborated on that, could you please?
Could you identify yourself?
Yeah, my name is Herbert Quinde with the Executive Intelligence Review. The publication associated with Lyndon Larouche.
Basically, what I said about the tapes is what I know about the tapes. That is that I do know that Cyrus Hashemi’s office was bugged, starting as early as October, 1980, that he did business out of there, with his brother and, certainly with the U.S. government, and also presumably with other people, during that period of time, that he was subsequently indicted by Rudolph Giuliani, in 1984…for illegal arms sales, based on evidence dating back to 1980 and 81 and those tapes. And the tapes, to the best of my knowledge, have never been seen since that time. So I…that’s basically what I know.
I think the FBI at one point had said the tapes had been lost, because at one point we were trying to get access to them.
Portions of the tape are in the court record, from the case…the Hashemi case. From that sting operation in ’86.
Identify yourself, please.
…Center for Responsive Law. Gary, you mentioned that arms were practically leaving as the hostages were coming back. Do we have any hard evidence that any arms were going in, before the Turkish plane was downed in July of ’81?
Only the word of people. I have no manifests, I do have some contract data, which looks…real. Involving an Iranian that I know independently to have been a real name of an individual involved in procurement that was signed with an Israeli arms dealer in July of 1981. There, however, is a lot of testimony from individuals about, and many of these senior Israelis, who will not go on the record unfortunately, with this. That the arms shipment started much earlier than that. There is, in fact, an allegation that will remain to be seen, that in fact, there were some arms shipments, in addition to the one airplane shipment that we know of in October, of 1980, from Israel, which looked very much like a sortof gesture of goodwill. That this is sortof sealing the deal that was done in October 15th to the 20th. That in addition to that, there may have been other deliveries even earlier, before the inauguration, as further evidence of that. But that again, remains very speculative, it’s on the basis of a single source and I feel very uncomfortable talking about it, because my rule of thumb has been, throughout this, that since these people are talking to us, are many cases themselves, dubious, unreliable people, that you simply don’t go with a single source. I like to have two or three, before I’m prepared to make an allegation, and in this case, I have only one source.
You say that’s between the election and the inauguration?
We have time for one more question. Here?
David McMichael. With reference to Mr. Ben-Menashe, Joel, if I recall my conversation with him correctly, he said up through, at least, September of 1980 at the various meetings, there had been the working assumption both of the Israelis and the Iranian representatives, that the objective was somehow to deliver the hostages into the custody of the Republican campaign representatives. And, in fact, arrangements had been made, to deliver them in Karachi, by sometime early in October. And that they were very surprised to learn that the decision had been made by Mr. Casey that they were in no case to be delivered. But it also raises the further question of, except perhaps for pettiness, of why the delay after the election, when no further electoral purpose could be served by holding the hostages…is anyone prepared to comment on that?
Yeah. I think it [unintelligible] the point, how complicated the story altogether is. It’s true, not just Mr. Ben-Menashe, also others have said that the Republicans’ first goal was to get these hostages out. Using Karachi as a point of departure. Now, I think one of the problems that people who investigate this story have had to deal with in the last two years, is that it is a terribly complicated thing. It’s not like a very straight line and I think there were setbacks, there were changes of mind, I think there were reverses, and I even wouldn’t rule out, that you had competing factions within the election campaign, within the Reagan-Bush campaign team. And I think what Mr. Ben-Menashe said about the Karachi connection, would make a lot of sense. Except for one point: how would they have explained to the American public in July of 1980, that all of a sudden, they got the hostages out, while the president, Jimmy Carter, did not get them out? There were very grave political questions associated with this. And, if he’s right, if Mr. Ben-Menashe is right, about the Karachi thing, it would be very interesting to know why it never came to pass.
I want to thank our panelists for coming here today, and laying out the facts as we know them, and what is not known. We’ll proceed now to the next panel on-
We’re going to have a quick change of scene, if we may. Morton Halperin, Marcus Raskin, please come forward. [applause]
This second panel will look at the issues that have been raised, from separate perspectives. Mort Halperin will begin with a constitutional view, Professor Beisner from American University will present the view of a historian. Mark Raskin will look at it from the point of view of a long time policy practitioner and student of American policy, and ethics / morality. And Tom Blanton will look at the issue from the point of view of the record. As a active member of the National Security Archive, he’s in a position to give an evaluation of the data that’s available and to address the question of what Congress, if it involved itself, would be likely to find. So, if Mort Halperin would begin.
Thank you, I’m pleased to be here. I also need to say that, as I’ve explained to the organizer of the conference, I had a prior commitment which could not be changed, so I will have to speak and then leave, and I mean no disrespect to my fellow panelists, whose views I would certainly like to stay and hear, and join in the conversation about, so I regret that. I think it is worth noting, that this conference is being held on the twentieth anniversary of the beginning of the publication of the Pentagon Papers by the New York Times. An event which began to educate the American public to a fact which also underlines this meeting. And that fact is, that we have permitted in this country something which should not be permitted in a democratic society, and which our constitution is designed to prevent. Namely, we have permitted a secret government. A government that both functions in secret and then is allowed to keep its history secret.
The startling thing about the Pentagon Papers is that it revealed that what we had been told about the war was not what had happened. To remind you just of one of the most, and for me, the most startling revelation…namely, that the South Vietnamese government in 1965 did not ask the American government to intervene militarily. In fact, it was bitterly opposed to the American military intervention. But we had told the South Vietnamese government that unless they allowed American troops to come into Vietnam, we would cease all our support. And that in fact, not only did they have to allow the troops to come in, but they had to pretend to ask for them. So, the American public was told that there was this urgent request from the South Vietnamese government which we were responding to, to help a free people, as we always call our allies. As we now call the Kuwaitis. To help a free people, and that we had to do it. We learned from the Pentagon Papers, that this was simply a lie. That they did not want us in, that we had insisted upon coming in, and there were many other fundamental falsehoods that we learned about only from the Pentagon Papers. I think we need to insist, certainly now that the Cold War is ending, and that the primary justification for the secret agencies, for the secret government, and for the secret history, the primary justification for that, the Cold War, has come to an end abroad. We need to start insisting that the legacy of the Cold War at home…be lifted. And that the United States be restored to the democracy that our founders meant it to be, that we celebrate the two hundredth anniversary of the Bill of Rights, we celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the publication of the Pentagon Papers, that we celebrate the end of the Cold War abroad, by restoring democracy at home. And that means ending secret agencies. It means that the Congress must insist that the intelligence agencies of the government, the NRO, the National Reconnaissance Office, whose very existence is still supposed to be secret, the CIA’s functions, the National Security Agency’s functions, that these be made public. And that their budgets be made public. But that also that the history become public. That we not be dependent on a Daniel Ellsberg to give us the Pentagon Papers, that we not be dependent on a Gary Sick to dig and dig, until he begins to come up with evidence of a possible October surprise. But that the government be required to make the history of what’s happened to us public in a much more timely fashion then is now going on.
Now, as we sit here, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is marking up a very, very modest proposal. It is a proposal that for the first time, statutorily sets out the standards for the publication of the diplomatic history of the United States. Which is released thirty years after the event. And as we know, the entire advisory committee to the State Department resigned. Because the State Department was putting out a volume of what took place thirty years ago, which left out all the key documents, and which gave no indication that it had left out all the key documents, and therefore, they resigned in protest. Congress is now seeking to change things. The Senate last year unanimously voted a set of rules, they are now before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and we have a letter from the State Department, announcing that any procedures that Congress will impose on the release of these documents is unconstitutional, and violates the president’s prerogatives in foreign affairs. And the president is, as he now seems to do with any bill that shows any life in the Congress of the United States, is threatening a veto of this legislation, on the grounds that the president’s legal adviser has told him that this will jeopardize the constitutional prerogatives of the president.
Now, you all remember the famous story of the crowds in Philadelphia who were gathering outside the hall where the constitution was being written in secret. And the great fear was, that they were in fact creating a monarchy. And the crowds in Philadelphia were fearful as the constitutional convention went on in secret, longer and longer, that what they were going to be confronted with, was the creation of a new monarchy. And as the constitutional convention finally ended, the great hero of the convention, as far as the people were concerned, Benjamin Franklin, came out. And the people gathered around him, and they shouted “What is it? What is it?” meaning, was it a monarchy? And Franklin looked at them and said, “It’s a republic, if you can keep it.” And I think that message needs to be directed to two places. First of all, we need to try to find a way to persuade George Bush, if not Boyden Gray, that it is a republic, and that we intend to keep it. They seem to think that in fact it is a monarchy, in which the president, and not the congress, decides what information we will have about how our government functions. And second of all, we need to direct that message to the Congress. Because the Congress has been unwilling to take on the president on the issues of government secrecy.
Let me just suggest a few simple steps I think the Congress ought to take, so that we do not need to meet five years from now, and ten years from now, and twenty years from now, to wonder again what has been done in the name of the United States in secrecy by our secret government. Congress ought to enact this very simple and very modest proposal about the diplomatic history of the United States. It ought to make the budget of the intelligence community and the functions of those agencies public, and ought to legislate the rules and procedures on which they operate. It ought to amend the Freedom of Information Act, so that it can become an even more effective tool than it is, for the release of information relating to national security. And Congress needs to make it clear in its oversight functions that it will not permit a secret government to operate in the name of the United States without our knowing about it. This is a republic, it is a constitutional democracy, it was built on a series of checks and balances, and it was built on the fundamental principle that the people have a right to know what their government is doing, to judge what the elected officials are doing, at the ballot box and in communications with the president and the executive branch, and we need to say, that as the Cold War ends abroad, that we will free ourselves to restore our democracy at home, in which we have a right to know what is done and a right to judge the officials of the government by knowing fully what they did in our name. And those are the principles I suggest should inform us as we look at the facts of this particular case. Thank you. [applause]
I’d like to turn to Marcus Raskin, Distinguished Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies.
Thank you very much. I have several points which really are a follow-up to what Mort Halperin has said. And that really goes to, I think, the case, finally, but then using the case as a way of re-thinking or re-structuring our own federal government. One way of reading American history is to take the Constitution and say, well, the Bill of Rights to the Constitution and the Preamble, are the democratic sections. And with the constitutional body, that is, internal workings of the constitution really represent the “how a government is to operate”. With the constitutional struggle which has existed in the United States since its inception, was between a republic and a democracy. In the 18th century, a democracy was not quite that popular. Indeed, it was viewed as something very dangerous by a number of people within the United States and in different parts of the world. And the republic, on the other hand, reflected the idea that the well-born and the propertied and the whites, males, should in fact govern. And that the whole struggle then, of the American constitution and the whole struggle in relation to that constitution, and to the character of the society is going to be, whether or not we could indeed be a democracy. And so, every step of the way, the Bill of Rights was used as an instrument. In the preamble, it was used as an instrument to develop inclusivity. To change the nature of what the governing structure was going to be. To include people, rather than exclude them. To include women. To include minorities. Et cetera. And that all of those reflected the historic struggle within the United States, for at least a hundred seventy five year period.
Now, simultaneous to this, by the end of the Second World War, something else began to happen. That was, that the United States found itself having an empire. And of trying to figure out how to run that empire. And so it began the process of re-organizing government itself. Re-organizing government came indeed to become what I term the national security state. The national security state meant, that there would be neither war nor peace, that there would be loyalty, in fact, not to the people as a whole, but to organization. To the organizational structure, that there would be secrecy, in which secrecy would dominate the character of what the basic system of government would be. And that those who became witting to that system would in fact be the ones who’d run the action.
So, in effect we had over the course of a period of time, from 1947-48 on, was the slow erosion of a democratic process in the following way: not that democracy ceased, or not that the republic ceased, but each became more and more a fig leaf for the actual ways that the government operated. That the way the government operated, was basically through and with the national security apparatus. And that apparatus included the Central Intelligence Agency, it included the National Security Agency, the CIA, significant aspects of the Department of Defense. And that each of those, in fact, had no legitimacy from Congress. That is to say, there were no public hearings in many cases. That the budgets, for example, of the CIA and the National Security Agency, were voted in secret, without any sort of understanding of the bulk of Congress where those monies were to go and how they would in fact be used. So this was the framework going into the 1980 election. The election was that this country was involved in neither war nor peace, that we were involved in constant conflict. That the government itself, that is the national security state itself, was involved in numerous covert operations over a forty year period. That coming in, therefore to the election, it was assumed this was indeed the way business was to be done. That the United States itself found that it would operate to suborn elections in different places in the world if it didn’t like the way the character of that election was going.
So finally what began happening is that this method was turned onto ourselves. And in 1980, what we began seeing was, as that national security state system began to come apart, a little bit, as a result of the end of the Vietnam war, as a result of Watergate, as a result of the Carter election, it meant that new notions of the possibility of governing in a new way, came to the fore, but also it meant that those people who were disturbed about the transformation of the national security state and greater control over operations, were indeed very very concerned, and very upset, about that direction.
Casey played an important role in this regard, as I would argue did several members, or two members of the National Security Council staff. Indeed, what we’re talking about here, is really in terms of what several people have spoken, several of the people here have been members of the National Security Council staff. So, at least to that extent, we know whereof we speak. The direction then, which occurred in 1980, for that election, meant two things, one is the re-assertion of the national security state. Pushing forward greater defense budgets and also, having a new system which before was only used sparingly in my view. It was used, but only sparingly. And that was contract officers who were assets of the CIA, who in effect would receive contracts to be in business by themselves, for the purpose of carrying out activities of the American government. In the 1980 election, it was critical to win that election on the part, both of the Republicans and Democrats obviously…Reagan was behind, it was said, by two percent in the polls of that time. And so that election became critical, and what here was important: was to find that way of winning the election, and so here what was used was those groupings within the national security state establishment who had served at one time, as people who could make all sorts of contacts, in order to upset the usual direction of that election possibly. This had been done earlier, in 1968, as well. Where the Republicans attempted to undercut President Johnson, and indeed, also that election, by making contact with South Vietnamese representatives in order to get the South Vietnamese to stop the possibility of the United States not bombing during that period.
So, here we are. We know pretty much what the facts are. Can this be made public in such a way as to change the direction of the country? And to begin the process of dismantling the national security state? This case can begin to do it. For it goes to a fundamental element of democracy, which is election. The election by the people. And if it is shown that this election was indeed polluted, indeed it will open the possibilities of a glasnost within the United States. It will open up the possibility of saying what indeed does the CIA do? Where are its records, what does the National Security Agency do? Are its records to be made, and should they be made public? And so forth and so on. And in that process, we will then be able to begin to talk through what the character of a modern democracy should be. And the character, in my view, of a modern democracy, has to be predicated on openness and on fairness, and non-pollution of elections. Either our own, or of other nations as well. So that means that the rules of the game which we want to apply to ourselves, we will have to accept in application to other nations as well. Thank you very much. [applause]
I’d like to turn to Professor Beisner, historian from American University.
I’d like to speak briefly about some things that seem to me, in this story that are both commonplace on the one hand and rare, on the other. And then briefly suggest significance of some of the events historically. What I see as commonplace in this story, or a part of the story that is commonplace, is the close connection between foreign policy and politics. There’s absolutely nothing new in that, in our history at all. And it’s become increasingly commonplace, since about the 1940s. Since the World War Two era, I think. And I think largely for two reasons, one of which is very encouraging. The first reason is simply the growing importance of international affairs in the United States, that is the growing participation of the United States in world affairs, and so the issues come up much more. Whereas you can have campaigns nearly a century ago, or more than a century ago, in which it simply would not be an issue. The encouraging part is, it seems to me, that compared to a century ago, or seventy five years ago, and to some degree on some issues, even yet today…a century or so ago, the public at large had very little interest in foreign affairs, very little knowledge about foreign affairs, and the U.S. government was able to make policy most of the time in a kindof public opinion and political vacuum.
Now there are qualifications to that at certain times of course. But from the 1940s onward, presidents, their administrations, members of Congress and so forth, have become increasingly aware that there is a public out there that cares about diplomatic and military issues, and they need to be concerned with. And as that concern has grown, the temptation to play politically with diplomatic events has grown, I think. But the normal situation, what again has been fairly commonplace in a lot of elections, it seems to me, has been cases of the incumbent manipulating events to his advantage. So that we have, we could get arguments about all of these, but let me just briefly mention some…we have Truman in 1948, for example, in the quick recognition of Israel, and on another kind of issue, pre-empting the right with a very hard line against the Soviet Union, helping him get elected in 1948. We have Johnson in 1964 withholding far more belligerent plans in Vietnam so that he could picture Richard [sic] Goldwater as the crazy man. We have Johnson, excuse me, the Johnson administration then at the very end of the 1968 campaign trying to produce negotiations on the Vietnam war in order to help get Humphrey elected. We have Nixon in ’72, along with Kissinger also playing all kinds of games with respect to Vietnam negotiations in order to affect the ’72 elections.
So this is very commonplace. And I have not heard anything today indicating that Carter would have passed up such an opportunity in 1980, either. And apparently there were some potential October surprises in the decisions to allow arms already purchased by Iran to be delivered to Iran. As Mark has indicated, another common, or fairly common phenomenon in the last fifty years, has been U.S. action affecting the elections of other states. And a reverse example of that, which I might want to mention, since I’ve been brought here as a historian, I think it’s my duty to mention something at least two hundred years old. Or nearly two hundred years old. An extreme rarity in American history, was the effort by the government of France, in 1796, to elect a president. Making every attempt it could, to get Jefferson elected in the expectation, an inaccurate one, that a Jefferson administration would be far friendlier to a revolutionary France, than an Adams administration would be. And they failed in that attempt, but not for lack of trying. What we have heard described today, and what we’ve all read about, over the last few years, that may have happened in 1980…if it did happen, is a rarity. In this case, I cannot play the normal historian’s role of declaring everything commonplace and something we’ve always seen.
The kind of, if this indeed occurred, if this indeed occurred…and we have an opposition party affecting foreign policy in an extremely important area, in order to affect the election, if this occurred the way it did…the only precedent that I can think of at the moment that is similar to that, has also just been mentioned by Mark, and that was the effort of the Republican party in 1968 to torpedo any last minute Vietnam settlement, by contacting the Vietnamese, South Vietnamese government, and encouraging that government, successfully, to hold back from the Paris negotiations that were just opening at that time. I don’t for a moment believe that that action prevented a peace settlement in Vietnam in 1968. I think that was unlikely to happen any time soon. But it was a crucial intrusion into diplomacy by private parties and in secret.
The meaning, the significance of all of this, it seems to me, it is probably too early to tell. Somewhat narrowly, again I’m skeptical despite some of the figures that have been mentioned, that the Reagan campaign intrusion into the Iran situation in 1980 decided an election. I doubt, it would take some extraordinary analysis to even make the case that that made a difference in Reagan’s election. It’s quite clear that the Republican campaign group, however, thought that it would. There are some other interesting, fairly narrow, if significant, historical issues, however, that become more understandable now, as we hear the story of 1980. One is the story of the behavior of the Reagan National Security Council. Which seems to be continuous with the behavior of the Republican campaign organization in 1980. As others have mentioned, and I won’t belabor the point here, the whole Iran-Contra issue looks different now, given the perspective that the situation gives us.
There’s some broader issues as well. I’ve recently been doing some reading in the history of U.S. relations with Iran in the Truman administration. And I have just, in fact, the last few days been reading in that volume of the Foreign Relations of the United States series that has been so excised. It’s a fascinating volume, it covers the U.S. relations with Iran and other states in the near East, from 1952 to 1954. There’s some crucial documents in it, but absolutely no reference whatsoever to the fact that the CIA played a fairly important role in Iran in 1953. But I bring it up here also as a way of indicating how I think what we’ve heard today suggests that this country has never understood with whom it’s dealing, in Iran. I think the Carter administration efforts demonstrate that. The Reagan campaign people probably demonstrated that. And as far as I can see, Harry Truman and Dean Acheson did not understand Iran either, although they…Acheson seems to have understood Iran better than the British did. But Acheson’s concern in the 1952, ’53, ’54 volume, has very little to do with Iran, it has very little to do with Islam, it all has to do with the Soviet Union. It’s that we have to act in such a way in Iran in order to prevent it falling into the hands of quote the commies end quote, which is actually state department telegramese, and not quite as pejorative as it sounds. But the language you use.
I think we also have further evidence today, which is pretty obvious, that presidents concerned about re-election will always worry about how a diplomatic or military situation might affect their re-election. Whether it’s in a campaign year, or one or two or three years away from the campaign year. I simply regard that as a given, and I’m not sure that there’s absolutely anything that can be done about it.
Somewhat facetiously, but not entirely, I’d like to say also that listening, reading much of what’s come out over the last year or so, reading the packet that you’ve received today and I got a copy of yesterday, and listening to the investigative journalists who spoke earlier, seems to me in part, today, we’ve been treated to sortof a legacy to Izzy Stone. I mean, I felt a number of times that Izzy Stone should be here, but there are people carrying on the role, obviously. Finally, I’d like to say one other thing. One of the things that I’ve been convinced of over their years, studying diplomatic history…and not without ambivalence…I stand before you as an ardent middle roader. And so, ambivalence comes naturally to me. And one of the things that I’ve become convinced of over the years, is that, in a constitutional democracy, foreign policy is bound to be carried out in such a way that’s messy. And that’s the word that’s often used when this issue is commented on. Now, what I’ve felt ambivalent about over the years, very often is, is that really what we want? And those of you who’ve read and listened to George Kennan, for example, over the years, know how deeply in the souls of people like Kennan, lie the wish to get rid of the public and to get rid of some of the difficulties involved, in the messiness involved in practicing foreign policy. In a republic.
But the last ten years…and this issue along with Iran-Contra, especially, have convinced me that we can hardly have messier attempts at conducting foreign policy, then we have received when people make an effort to conduct that policy outside the channels of constitutional democracy. So the issue is probably not a nice, neat, clear-cut foreign policy conducted undemocratically versus a messy democratic foreign policy. I’m not quite sure that the conclusion is that foreign policy is always messy, but it’s clear that an attempt to get around the bounds set by the American constitution and law, is likely to make the situation even worse. Thank you. [applause]
Thank you, professor Beisner. The last panelist is Tom Blanton, who is Deputy Director of the National Security Archives.
I was asked onto this panel today to discuss essentially whether and how a congressional investigation should take place. As to these issues around the hostages in 1980 and the election campaign. But mine is a very small voice, actually, when compared to distinguished panelists that we’ve heard from today, and as compared to Representative Derrick and his seventy five colleagues who signed a letter requesting a congressional investigation and, I guess, especially compared to the voices of the former hostages who’ve requested such an investigation. So I’d like to limit my remarks really to three basic points. One of which is the historical context for the calls for a congressional investigation. Second, is the specific ideas as to where Congress might go and what it might find. And third is to comment generally on what may or may not be achieved by a congressional investigation. First, just on the historical context. As I’ve gone over the past couple weeks through the, literally hundreds of press clippings, through the mailings that Barbara Honegger has kindly sent me over the years, through the various books by Bani-Sadr, Gary Sick’s book, the books by the negotiators who ultimately did get the hostages out, I was struck that I came across a call for a congressional investigation which, to my knowledge is the very first call for a congressional investigation of the release of the hostages…it was actually made by a prominent American while the hostages were still being held. And I’d like to read it to you today, because I think, in many respects, it could become the epigraph for our on-going efforts to see an investigation occur. And let me quote:
“I think it is time for us to have a complete investigation as to the diplomatic efforts that were made in the beginning. Why they have been there so long. And when they come home, what do we have to do in order to bring that about. What arrangements were made? And I would suggest that Congress should hold such an investigation.” Quote unquote. That was Ronald Reagan. On October 28, in the presidential debate with Jimmy Carter. I think he was right. I agree with this distinguished American. There should be an investigation.
Let me just suggest a few points about what Congress could look for. And might find. And in this regard I must admit I’ve been scooped somewhat, and I recommend to everyone that they visit their local newsstand and get a copy of this week’s issue of The Nation magazine. David Corn has written an excellent article summarizing much of these leads and issues under the title, “Leads Congress Should Pursue”. And I recommend it to everyone considering an investigation, or continuing an investigation. But let me just go down a few of the key records that different speakers have already alluded to, that may help resolve this issue one way or another. First of course, the campaign records from the Reagan-Bush campaign of the fall of 1980 which are apparently in the custody of the Reagan Library Project in California, and Edwin Meese, the former attorney general has the say over whether anyone can gain access to those. I think obviously from what Gary Sick said on the first panel, it’s going to require something on the order of a subpoena to get into those. But in those papers should be things like appointment books and phone logs and a variety of records that may or may not show, were there actual meetings, were people in the office, were Republican members of that campaign talking to Iranians and so forth. And that’s certainly an imperative, and it’s clear from the efforts of journalists and so forth, that the fact that they haven’t been able to get access to those materials is in itself a recommendation for a congressional investigation. Second, of course, would be William Casey’s personal papers. As far as I know, only one researcher has been allowed access to Casey’s personal papers dating from the 1980 period, that was Joseph Persico, for his biography of Casey. I recommend it to you not for what it says about the October surprise, because it doesn’t say very much, it discusses it very briefly, and I think less than a page, but for the context of Casey’s life and Casey’s operations, I think very essential for any informed judgement on this matter.
Apparently, Persico went through the personal papers, about twenty to thirty boxes worth, at Casey’s house, here in Washington, with the permission of Casey’s widow, while writing his biography of Casey. He found no appointment books and no phone logs, and he could not conclude from the evidence available to him whether or not those still existed or whether those had already been shipped off to the Hoover institution, which is, as I understand it, the ultimate repository of the Casey materials. Again, I suspect because these are under the control of the family, it will require a subpoena to gain any further access to those materials.
Further, we now have the new evidence of the last several months, is really in the form of a series of interviews, many of them on videotape , many of them on audiotape, many of them in notes, by some very credible researchers. The crew who put together the PBS Frontline piece, Robert Parry and others, Gary Sick and others…again, those are very useful as tips for investigators, but to have them become a real core public record of this story, they need to be under oath, and they need to be taken in some official proceeding. Again, an argument for an official congressional investigation.
Further, Gary Sick this morning recommended a couple of other “record sets”, if you will, that should be gone after. Things like the flight records, because they do have tail numbers from a variety of these witnesses that they have interviewed. Passport records, customs and immigration and so forth. And the tapes from the sting operation that Cyrus Hashemi was part of, the celebrated [Samuel] Evans-[Avraham] Bar-Am case, that ultimately was dropped in New York. That, by the way, did pick up [Manucher] Ghorbanifar in its wide net, at the time, in ’86. Again, this material may need to be subpoenaed because there’s almost no other way to avoid the privacy considerations and so forth, that might prevent it from being obtained. I think the most sensitive area of all, of records that haven’t been discussed yet today, which may be the most illuminating, or the least illuminating, depending on what you come up with, are the communications intelligence. The regular intercepts, monitoring of worldwide electronic communications by the National Security Agency. Clearly, in 1980, that monitoring had to have been a major focus of the entire U.S. intelligence community. This was the primary issue of the day, clearly they would have been monitoring as best they could any communications to or from the Iranian foreign ministry in Tehran. Clearly they would be attempting to monitor any communications to or from various embassies, particularly in places like Paris, where there was a significant Iranian exile community, and where Khomeini himself had spent some time, while in exile. Clearly they would have been attempting to monitor the Iranians with whom they were negotiating. For instance, [Mirza Sayyed Mohammad] Tabatabai [one of the leaders of the Iranian revolution], what is it, the brother of the wife of Khomeini’s son, who was ultimately one of the key mediators with the Algerians in the ultimate Carter negotiations. Clearly they would have been attempting to track people like [Akbar Hashemi] Rafsanjani, maybe Karroubi, who was after all a member of the parliament, and apparently the leader of a hardline faction which they were clearly worried about, which preached time after time against any negotiations with the great Satan. And they would clearly, I believe, have been attempting to monitor at least any dealings of the various arms dealers, ex-patriots, and others, who were attempting to make contacts between the U.S. government and the Iranians. Various reporters have said to me over time, that they know of as many as a hundred such contacts by would-be dealers, most of which never came to anything, but they did exist, and the records of those contacts, the electronic intercepts of phone calls, of cables, of radio transmissions, and so forth, would have clearly been a major focus of U.S. investment and monitoring and clearly, I think this is the major area which recommends a congressional investigation, because there is effectively no way, for journalists, for historical researchers, and even in many respects, for attorneys in court cases, because the court cases would be forced to be dropped. The government has a power under the Classified Information Procedures Act to force the dropping of various prosecutions, on the basis of state secrets.
Clearly a congressional investigation is, in effect, the only practical method for getting at those super secret, above top secret communications intercepts, which are so sensitive that, I think in the 1980s, only on a couple of key occasions, particularly in the downing of the KAL 007, has the U.S. government officially released any of these intercepts. Clearly, it can be done when it serves certain purposes of the administration, but in this case, it would require not only a subpoena, but congressional investigators with code word clearances and so forth. But obviously, it should be a major area to focus. And then I’ll refer you to David Corn’s article for other general discussion of these record systems, now let me move on to point three, which is, what are we likely to find out? What may or may not be achieved?
What we may find out from, if we actually get a hold of these records, is whether or not the meetings actually took place. The communications intercepts may show whether there was a deal or not, in the sense that you presumably have conversations, dialogues, back and forths, reportings, and so forth, that may convey some of the substance of those discussions. But from the personal records, the appointment books, the phone logs, the credit card records and so forth and so on, you can only conclude whether the meetings actually took place. That may be enough, in itself, that would be a scandal. And I would just remind people of that, while you’re chasing George Bush and other folks, just the mere fact of top campaign officials meeting with representatives of foreign governments, and discussing something as sensitive as the hostages, is in itself a highly questionable activity. And Gary Sick and others have proved this to their satisfaction. So, just in closing, it’s unclear how far even a congressional investigation with subpoenas to go towards resolving the issue of whether there was a deal or not. They may only be able to resolve whether there were meetings or not. But there has to be a major attempt to create a public record. Because without that public record, we’re all going to continue to be dependent on the kinds of anonymous sources, unsourced information, hearsay information, that is very troubling, to any investigator, certainly a total documents fiend like myself and the National Security Archives staff, who’ve been very strongly agnostic on this whole question, simply because of the almost complete lack of that kind of hard documentation and its dependence on interviews and sources. We’re not reporters, if we were reporters, those sources, as Gary Sick and Robert Parry and others have demonstrated, are plenty good enough to go and get it in a newspaper. The point now, I think, is that congress, internally at least, is debating whether to hold…right now, they’re in the course of an informal staff proceeding. What congressman Derrick referred to as the equivalent of a grand jury type investigation, prior to bringing an indictment. To see whether or not the evidence warrants the bringing of an indictment, the mounting of an official investigation.
That’s all well and good, and I was especially encouraged that congressman Derrick said that they would come to a decision on whether to proceed, he estimated in the next two weeks. I would be greatly surprised if that occurred, but the point, I think, fundamentally, is that if proceedings are kept informal, if proceedings are held in secret, say in the various intelligence committees, of the House and the Senate, then you’re guaranteed to have no resolution of this story one way or another. A caution: even if you do have a formal investigation, with subpoena power, you’re not guaranteed to know whether or not it actually occurred. But if you don’t have an investigation, you’re guaranteed never to know. So, in conclusion, I just want to echo what Moorhead Kennedy said earlier, which is just simply, as a citizen, for the health of the democracy, for the public’s right to know, there should be a formal official investigation with subpoena power, to pull all of this evidence together for all of our sakes. Thank you. [applause]
We have time for questions, comments. Yes, please, would you-
Sarah McClendon, McClendon Independent News Service. I’d like to know why you’re so naive to think we’d get anywhere with Congress, if they did have an investigation, when they don’t answer subpoenas, like Gonzales is trying to get the Federal Reserve Board to come forward with the records on banks and can’t get it, time after time, and when they also stopped the Iran-Contra hearings and told them not to go back beyond a certain period because the FBI, because if they did, they’d have to take out a president.
You’re absolutely right. I have no confidence that they’re going to get to the bottom of this thing, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try. I mean, I think if you’re in your business, or if you’re in my business, you’re a hopeless optimist. Why do you keep going out there writing stories every day and try to tell the people what’s going on in the government, if you don’t believe that it has…you gotta do it, even just for it’s own sake. Even if it doesn’t result in the truth ever essentially emerging.
Well, I’ve got four or five scandals that the Congress committees “are looking into” and they keep on looking into them, and they don’t do a damn thing about it.
Well, you’ve got your finger on a major point, which is, one of the key reasons why Congress is so reluctant to investigate this story, is that to investigate it and to find out the truth will uncover the fact that a number of committees and subcommittees of Congress have been derelict in their duty in terms of tracking exactly this set of issues. I think you have some high level members, for instance, of the Iran-Contra committees who are not interested in going back over the ground, part of which was covered by them, because it will show their own failures in that investigation. So I think that’s part of the picture. Another part of the picture is, of course, partisanship, that the Republicans are not interested in opening this can of worms. But, fundamentally, it comes down to a matter of will. And what you write, and the documents I come up with, and what everyone else here talks about and writes and puts out in the public domain, either will help generate enough momentum to have an official investigation, or it won’t.
…[unintelligible], Action Information Bulletin. Given the track record of the national security apparatus, and with great professionalism, in destroying and disappearing documents and other materials, that relate to its operations…if you remember, of course, Richard Nixon’s own secretary, with her foot, disappeared three minutes of critical tape. If you remember the fact that during the Iran-Contra hearings, Tom Polgar, longtime CIA officer, acknowledged that massive numbers of documents were not released, or provided to the committee. My point here is to suggest, is it not in order to, as we speak here today, to go to court, to consider going to court, to get a court injunction that would lay down the basis that the government cannot disappear or destroy the relevant documents that have been listed here today as being needed.
I think it’s a very good idea.
I might also add, if I may, on behalf of The Fund for New Priorities, holding sessions such as this one today, is part of the democratic process, and the people’s right to know. We’ve done this for twenty two years, not as well as we’d like. But your participation, the press’s participation, the American citizenry, concern about this issue, is the way in which Congress will respond. Without that kind of national pressure, and we’re a very small group even in this hearing room today, but we have the responsibility, and we have the democratic right to know. And more organizations, more individuals clambering for democracy, for knowledge, for the kind of recommendations that Mort Halperin made on this panel, will provide the grist, if you will, the ability to put some spine in some of our congressmen, and put the responsibility where it belongs. Absent that kind of pressure, if we didn’t do even the thing we did in March of ’73, I don’t know whether the Senate Select Committee on Watergate would have ever come to be. The thing we didn’t do, by the way, in Iran-Contra, was to have an adequate public hearing, and an adequate demand and pressure from our own group, and to that extent we plead guilty that we didn’t do enough, and the press didn’t do enough, and the people didn’t do enough. I’ve a letter from Arthur Liman, who was supposed to be on the panel, because I’d criticized Arthur Liman’s handling of his role in Iran-Contra. And he says in the letter that I have, excusing himself from coming to this, because he had to go to a bar association meeting on minorities, we wanted to present the questions we had to Arthur Liman today. But it’s an aroused and concerned citizenry, it’s an aroused press if you will. The media has been on this only in a limited way. And Sarah McClendon and everyone else should be on this. We had people talking, why isn’t it covered more adequately, and Hitchens has been working on it, and Kilian has been working on it, and they’ve been marginalized, and Barbara Honegger has been working on it, and the Christic Institute has been working on it, and it’s all, well, that left-wing or fringe group or that other group. And they’re just rattling around again. But the American people, if they know what’s going on, if they hear what’s going on, and they call their congressman and say, as Butler Derrick just said, we have a concern. And then you will see more than seventy five. We don’t have the atmosphere that we had in 1973 and the concern that we had.
I’m Harvey Wasserman, author of a history book called Harvey Wasserman’s History of the United States, along those lines, a group of us will be meeting at two o’clock at 122 Maryland Avenue to make sure that this story continues. I want to take strong issue with Mr. Beisner as a fellow historian. I thin it’s very clear that had the hostages been released, when President Carter thought they were going to be released, and had his deal gone through, that Carter would have won the election. I don’t believe it was just Republican paranoia. The polls showed it, and their polls, Richard Wirthlin’s polls, showed a shift of ten percent, in the public opinion, which was more than enough to give this election to Jimmy Carter. The election was much closer in 1980 than people remember in terms of the popular vote. I think it’s also very important, when we discuss this event, to keep it in historical perspective. This is one of the major shaping events of the twentieth century. There are very few events you can point to, that very clearly turn the course of American politics. The assassination of John Kennedy, the manipulation in 1968 of the Vietnamese thing, and really beyond that, you almost have to go all the way back to the sinking of the Lusitania, which brought the United States into World War I.
And I bring that up for a very specific point. When Woodrow Wilson was president in 1915, a vast majority of the United States opposed getting into World War I, and the Germans sank the luxury liner, the Lusitania, charging that it was carrying British arms, from New York to London. The British strongly denied it, and Woodrow Wilson went along with them. Seventy years later, deep sea divers went down to the Lusitania, and in fact, found many tons of weapons that were going from the United States to Great Britain. So it may very well be that the United States got into World War I on the basis of a lie. And World War I was a major shaping event in American history. There’s absolutely no doubt about that. We now have a situation in 1980, where the American public had a choice between a moderate liberal Democrat and an extreme right wing Republican. We all know what happened in the 1980s, and we all, I think, can go back and take strong questioning about what the 1980s might have looked like, had Jimmy Carter been re-elected, as opposed to Ronald Reagan. The world would have been very different, not only in the 1980s, but probably for an entire generation to come. So I think it’s very important that people keep in perspective the enormity of the impact of what we’re talking about here. This was not a small event. And I think Ms. McClendon’s point is very well taken. We, in no way shape or form, can trust a congressional investigation. A congressional investigation cannot be an end to this situation. It cannot be a major victory if Congress decides to investigate this deal in 1980. Because aside from the historical impact, there is, as I think you’ll agree, no precedent for a strong case to be made against a sitting president for having committed treason. And essentially we are talking about treason here. The idea of an opposition campaign, negotiating sub rosa, with a foreign government to delay the release of hostages, if that isn’t treason, I don’t know what is. And we’re talking about the current and the former president of the United States involved here, there really is nothing of that magnitude in the history of this country. And I hope people will keep that in mind as we proceed, because it really dwarfs anything that this congress or any future congress, in many ways any past congress, is probably willing to deal with. And I think Mr. Paperin is exactly right, that people, as a whole, are going to have to deal with this issue. [applause]
Yes, I’d like Marcus Raskin to expound a bit more on the point that you were making. It seems that the point that you’re making is fundamentally more profound, than that which is being acknowledged by most of the speakers and the questioners. That whereas most of the people are talking about some element in the Republican party establishing negotiations, somehow with a foreign power to win a particular election, your point, at least if I heard it correctly, is fundamentally different. That this was, in fact, a counterstrike, against the entire concept of democratic government in the United States by elements of a national security state. That had been formulated since 1947, with the passage of the National Security Act. Now, if that is the constitutional reality that we’re dealing with, it seems to me that we have to define it properly, in order to define the nature of what the congressional investigation has to be here. Could you, in fact, clarify your point? And am I right in hearing what you’re saying?
Alright, I think there are two elements to it. The first element, is that starting with the end – and here Professor Beisner will know far more than I – but starting with the end of the Second World War, it was taken for granted that the United States could intervene in other people’s elections. Now, we had of course done that consistently in South America and in Latin America. But what we needed at that point in the early and late 1940s, was a new apparatus. And that apparatus was one which assumed that we were running a worldwide empire. You can call it the free world, you can call it what you want, but the assumption was that there were things we could do, which were so-called “legitimated” because we had power. But there was no real internal legitimation in the country for those things. The legitimation really didn’t come from Congress, except in the most broad way. For example, there is no place in the laws which says that covert operations should be conducted by a part of the American government. Yet it’s the case that covert operations go on. And the meaning of covert operations, in fact, is that you’re breaking the law of another country. That’s why you do it covertly. You’re trying to get their secrets, you’re doing all sorts of things, whether blackmail or secrets, or whatever it is, that’s why you’re conducting a covert operation on that level. And also you’re conducting it because you don’t want to go through congress because it would be publicly debated within the United States, and indeed in that sense, an elitist notion is, that a small grouping of people know better than others, that this is the way things should go on. This is the way politics should be conducted, in an international sense.
Now that has come to be known as the legitimate way of doing business in American society over the forty year period. And I would argue that that’s illegitimate. That that in itself, that national security state apparatus has to be dismantled. Now, in the context of that illegitimate system, came another illegitimate system. And that illegitimate system was, it came at various stages. Groupings of people who went out on their own to do various sorts of enterprises, which you know very well about. Other groupings of people organizing businesses, proprietaries for the CIA, to be used as fronts for other activities of the CIA, as if they were individual businessmen, not responsible to the CIA. But beyond that, came to be something that occurred in 1980 which is so profound. And that is the return of the possible fixing of an American election. Now, subjectively, from the point of view of Casey, his view is, look, Carter is an interloper. He tried to get rid, and indeed was successful at getting rid of part of the CIA. Stansfield Turner is an interloper, although god knows he isn’t, but indeed that is the perspective that Casey was taking, and indeed Casey was a man who’d been involved with secret operations since the second world war, and since the OSS, since OSS days. So, his perspective is, look, these people have indeed disturbed the orderly way of doing business by the United States, over this period of time. They were indeed, in the 1980s, if Carter had his way, who knows what might emerge with regard to the CIA. There was indeed, under Carter, much heavier controls over covert operations. As you know, as soon as Casey came in, with Reagan, they removed the controls over the covert operations. There had been a committee established, an oversight committee established in the White House, which no longer had that particular oversight responsibility over covert operations. So, a very great deal changed at that point.
Now, what does this mean? It means, in effect, you have a governing structure which is illegitimate, which it uses either the Republic or the Democracy, the rhetoric of Democracy or Republic, but operates on its own. And it operates in a framework of controlled legitimacy. That is, self-enforced legitimacy, indeed various people here have been part of it. Halperin had been part of it, I had been part of it, Sick had been part of it, and it operates in the context of rules and regulations which are self-imposed. But they’re not responsive to Congress per se, or to the public, per se. That system has, in my view, to be dismantled. Secondarily, came out of that system…a criminal system. And the criminal system is the one that we’re talking about here. Which now goes to the point, can you not only fix other people’s elections, but can you fix the elections at home? And in that sense, Wasserman’s comments are very important. I’m not here to talk about traitorous activity of the president, nor do I know enough to even begin to make such a charge. But it is clear that elections over the course of a forty year period have been fixed by the United States abroad. And that those people who undertake to do that abroad, have no problems doing that home. [applause]
A couple of points with regard to the press. Ms. Katherine Graham, owner of the Washington Post company, made her post Iran-Contra pilgrimage to Langley in November of 1988, and stated in a speech there, that democracy flourishes when government can keep its secrets. Point two, the Frontline program referred to, Mr. Angelo Codevilla, who is the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence staff member referred to anonymously, previously…declared there on, and was identified as an informal consultant to the Republican campaign Committee, and in fact did deliver from his privileged position, information to that committee. That’s a heavy duty felony. To which he has openly admitted. Has any prosecution gone forward? Has any charge been made against him? Point three, and my last one…with regard to secrecy…there is currently a private lawsuit under way in federal court in Baltimore. Maxwell versus First National Bank of Maryland. This case involves, I will not go into the details, some charges relating to a CIA front company, which was a client at that bank. The plaintiff, Mr. Maxwell, in his private suit, for damages against the bank for wrongful discharge…was in charge of that account. In late December, the Justice Department, that oxymoron, presented an affidavit signed by the director of Central Intelligence, Mr. William Webster, in support of its motion, that Mr. Maxwell, a private citizen, who had never entered into an official relationship with the United States, never signed any secrecy agreement, by reason of the doctrine of absolute state secrecy, is to be prevented at any time in this proceeding, from referring to Associated Traders Corporation, to the Justice Department, to the FBI, or to the CIA, for fear of grave danger to the national security of the United States. These three points, I submit to you, illustrate where we are, on a very direct, important, and human level. Thank you. [applause]
I had a question for Tom Blanton, I think it would be best…on the congressional investigation. And that is, what evidence is there beyond the assurances that Butler Derrick gave this morning, and the seventy five signers of this letter, that this quasi grand jury proceeding is really taking place, that something serious is happening on the part of the democratic leadership. I mean, who is the staff in charge, how many staff people are working on this, what are they doing, what letters have been written, what requests have been made…to the administration, and to Meese in California, to the other types of records you’ve talked about. Do you see or hear any of that being done on any sort of timetable…and I guess a related question, on the Senate side, is there any indication at this point, that the intelligence community and the work up to the Gates nomination hearings plan to pursue any of these issues in that forum?
To answer your first question, I really can’t answer it. You have to ask congressman Derrick. I’m not privy to those discussions, I’ve not attended any of those meetings, I couldn’t even name all the, you know, what committees have contributed staff to this operation, but you should check with the house leadership, and I’m sure you have much better sources on the hill than I do. On the-
My concern is, in checking with the leadership, the answers to those sorts of questions are quite vague, and they’re not, they’re not reassuring to a reporter, that something is happening. And I think perhaps Butler Derrick may have conveyed a different impression when he talked about a grand jury proceeding, that something is really going on here.
Yeah, he certainly conveyed a different impression I hadn’t heard before, which is why I remarked on it, and I would recommend that you talk to him, the notion that in two weeks they would decide is, I think, news. On the second question, I have no indications about what the Senate intelligence committee is or is not looking into, just some references in the media that four or five staff members are working full-time, compiling a briefing book on Gates. We’ve compiled one at the National Security Archives, and everyone’s welcome to come get a copy of. We’ll charge you for it, but that’s to cover our costs. But I have no notion other than that, about what they’re looking into.
Barbara Honegger, the author of October Surprise. What I’d like to add here is some very specific data, some facts, people ask me, where are the smoking guns. And we’ve, Tom Blanton has listed a number of the documents that need to be subpoenaed, and the kinds of documents, and the kinds of sources that need subpoenas, once we get subpoena power, whether it’s in a class action suit, which is my hope, frankly, on the part of the fifty two hostages or some good subset of them, or whether there’s a congressional hearing or investigation with subpoena power and under oath testimony. Just a couple of the highlights, and I’m on the record, going to say, here, that while I’m in Washington over the next two days, I am going to compile from my own five year research, and being the author of the only book on this subject, which I have available here, for those who would like to see it…published in 1989, and I should add that the day my book was published, May 12, 1989, the Bush Justice Department chose to sue one of the key witnesses, self-proclaimed eye witnesses, Richard Brenneke, on that precise date. That is not a coincidence. My book is important. And you should read it.
Now, in the book, there are references to a number of smoking guns and in the three years since I have written the book, I have on a daily basis continued this research, full-time. Just some tips of the iceberg, of some of these smoking guns. Half of which are contained in the book, and half of which are not. I pledge here that I will make a list of all thirty seven of them. There are audiotapes. We know where they are, they have to be subpoenaed. And I will make that list available to the individuals in the Congress that I happen to personally know, including Spencer Oliver, the chief counsel of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, including Mr. Robert Torricelli, and his assistant, Rick Frost, including Mr. Butler Derrick and his assistant, Michael Harrison, who is there today. And a whole list of the individuals I have been assured have been working on this quote grand jury unquote, they will have this list of smoking guns before I leave Washington on Saturday. And this list of smoking guns, I will make available to the press, in whatever way I can, if and only if, the decision is made by this so-called staff level investigation in the House of Representatives, not to go forward with subpoena power, and I will make the full list available to the press. You will see in a moment the problem with the dilemma and the trade-off of making the full list available to the press now, is that people have a way of dying very quickly, if they know something. The epilogue to my book, which I call “A Kinder, Gentler Nation”, is a list of some thirty individuals who have either been assassinated, assassination attempts on their life, and I add in that list, Mr. Brenneke himself, also Houshang Lavi, now deceased, who is the self-acknowledged individual, an Iranian arms dealer who has said that, on videotape, in an interview I arranged for him…that he personally at the October 2nd meeting, that Richard Allen, Lawrence Silberman, the judge who has now let Oliver North off the hook, not coincidentally, and also Mr. Robert McFarlane. Not coincidentally, later at the center of Iran-Contra. These three men have acknowledged publicly, having been at the October 2nd 1980 meeting in the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel, with, they say, an Iranian, maybe an Egyptian, well, that man has come forward, his name is Houshang Lavi. There were two attempts on his life. He is now deceased from a heart attack. I presume that was of natural causes. But: just some examples of the highlights, smoking guns, that are going to be on the list of thirty seven that I will give to these members of the staff level investigation. The surprising one that has not yet been mentioned here today, was actually mentioned on the MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour, on November 7th, 1986, by none other than Richard Allen himself, one of the participants of the meeting with Mr. Houshang Lavi on October 2nd, 1980. That October 2nd, 1980 meeting is one of the hard data points that we have. And Misters Allen, Silberman, and McFarlane want you to believe that nothing happened there.
I have a tape recorded interview with Mr. Ari Ben-Menashe, whom we know, was a former Israeli intelligence agent, who was in a position to know at the time, later a top assistant to Mr. Shamir himself. He is right now, as I am speaking to you, in Australia writing a book on October Surprise for release in five languages, this November 1991. So, it will not be long before his entire story is out in his own words. However, in a tape recorded interview with him, I have the transcript in my possession with me here today, he has stated that to his personal knowledge, as part of what he called the “Ora Group” in Israel, six members were critical in that group; there was a total of approximately ninety two billion dollars in U.S. and other Western arms that were brokered by the Israelis to Iran, over the period of the Iran-Iraq war. We are talking twice the entire estimated forty billion dollars that it costs the United States and all of our allies to fight the recent Persian Gulf war. Now, this Ari Ben-Menashe is very important. He is also, in a tape recorded interview with me, personally present at this – hard fact – October 2nd 1980 meeting with Allen, Silberman, and McFarlane, and he has stated in a taped interview with me, that Mr. Houshang Lavi, now deceased, two assassination attempts against his life, was working for Mr. Ari Ben-Menashe and Israeli intelligence at the time. Mr. Houshang Lavi happened to be Jewish and Iranian. Mr. Ari Ben-Menashe happens to be Jewish and born in Iran. And you will see in the revised edition of my book that this is a very important connection, the Jewish-Iranian connection.
In any case, the tip of the iceberg, in terms of a hard data point we need to subpoena, is that this very man, Richard Allen, who we know was at this meeting…and Mr. Ari Ben-Menashe has also now identified the two Iranians at the meeting, that Houshang Lavi would not name for me, except to say one of them was a doctor. I had asked him, “Was it Dr. Cyrus Hasehmi?”, he said, “No, I guarantee you it is not.” Now Mr. Lavi is deceased. But Mr. Ari Ben-Menashe is now stated on tape that the individual, the doctor at the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel meeting, with Allen, Silberman, McFarlane, and according to Ben-Menashe, Ben-Menashe himself and Lavi, was a Dr. Om Ghomshei, who I’ve checked with Bani Sadr, he is the former president of Iran, he has checked that, he came back to me through his translator, his english translator, one week ago in writing, and he said Mr. Ghomshei, Dr. Ghomshei, is a very important figure who is close to Mr. Mehdi Kashani. Well, Mr. Kashani in my tape recorded interview with Ari Ben-Menashe, as having been Mr. Ari Ben-Menashe’s number one core contact in Iran, for the arms for hostages deals. So, this is a critical meeting, it’s not what Richard Allen said, I happen to disagree with Martin Kilian, that he agrees with Richard Allen, I do not believe Richard Allen. I think that it was a very important, substantive meeting, I do not believe that it just happened in the lobby, there were at least five or six individuals that we can identify already, as acknowledging having been present. And as a result of that meeting, there were certain understandings that were made. Richard Allen, a participant in this hard fact October 2nd 1980 meeting, with Lavi and presumably also Ben-Menashe, and Dr. Ghomshei of Iran, and Ghomshei’s aide, who is still not identified by name, this same Richard Allen, on the MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour, on November 7th 1986, stated to a nationwide television audience, that he Richard Allen, then the first national security advisor to President Reagan, on Reagan’s first full day in office, that was January 21st, 1981, that he, Allen, turned to Reagan, presumably in the Oval Office or somewhere close there, in the White House certainly, said Mr. Reagan, “There’s a fifty-third hostage…” Or a fifty-fourth hostage. “..who is still being held in Iran. Her name is Cynthia Dwyer, and she happens to be the wife of one of my former college buddies.” Well, Mr. Allen put out on MacNeil-Lehrer that the president of the United States, Ronald Reagan, turned to him on January 21st 1981 and said, “You call or let us call the Iranians, call Iran and tell them that the deal is off, unless she is also released.” Well, there is a tape recording in the White House Situation Room basement made of all calls to foreign officials, especially heads of state…
Can I ask you, you’ve got very important thing to say, and they’re people who want to talk with you about it…we have a few minutes, and there are a few more questions. With your indulgence. Question here. Thank you.
My name is Robert Boehm, from The Fund for New Priorities and also the Center for Constitutional Rights. The point I wish to make is that, to emphasize the important constitutional aspects discussed by Morton Halperin, and to add a further point: and that is that the operations of the CIA, as they have existed almost from the beginning, are themselves really unconstitutional, because the constitution requires that all appropriations made of funds for the government must be appropriated by Congress and by nobody else. And must be revealed in the budget. Well, actually the CIA operation is not separate at all, is not voted on separately by the Congress, but is, consists of monies given to the CIA by various other agencies. So there is no real way in which the Congress can even know how much the CIA has been getting. As a matter of fact, at one time, Senator Kennedy ventured a guess that it ran perhaps five billion dollars. Actually, the funds expended for the CIA and other intelligence agencies now have been publicly admitted to be approximately thirty billion dollars. Now, this continuing violation of the constitution is something that invites, I think, the attention of legal scholars. Actually, it was presented in court, in a very well-known case, Harrington against the government. Congressman Michael Harrington raised this issue, and brought it to the attention of the courts. Unfortunately, the circuit court of appeals in, I believe, Massachusetts, ruled that he did not have standing to sue. It’s really hard to justify the decision of that time, because it would seem to me that a Congressman has every important interest in knowing how the funds that Congress votes are expended. But the court held against him on it, and other constitutional lawyers were afraid to bring the matter to the Supreme Court because they were afraid it would also give a bad decision. However, I think the issue is still very much alive and I think it’s something that should be investigated and that it should play a role in the deliberations of people who want to bring out, prevent secrecy in government.
Time for one more question. Alright. Well, I think that brings us to an end. I want to thank our panelists who have spoken here today. In very different ways they have made a plea for a formal investigation to be made by an appropriate committee of Congress. Particularly concerning charges made in connection with the so-called October Surprise. The panelists have outlined what they know, what they don’t know, and what needs to be known. They’ve also given us some sense of the constitutional issues, the historical context, and some sense of the practical politics involved. And from what we’ve heard today, it seems to me that the charges and allegations by any reasonable standard are very serious. They affect the reputation and integrity of some of our leaders of both parties, our government, and its process. And I am sure that most Americans want to believe in the integrity and openness of its leaders, its government, and its processes. I certainly do. But these allegations are so serious that they deserve to be examined. The truth or falsity of them determined, and the necessary judgements made in a fair, just, and thorough and authoritative way, and the Congress is an appropriate way to do that.
Thank you. I’d also like to close with a vote of gratitude to the staff who works so hard in preparing this. We have our west coast director David Marks, we have Washington staff in the form of Robert Van Devere, and Bill Anderson, and all the other members of the Fund, I want to thank the panelists, I want to thank Moorhead Kennedy and Barry Rosen and the other hostages, for the role that they’ve continued to play in a very important democratic process. As I said before, we will have a follow-up in the form of videotapes available. This is the commercial part, the Fund for New Priorities is a tax exempt educational organization, we raise money from the people. And we need help to distribute the materials to hold these conferences. Any contributions should be sent to The Fund at 171 Madison Avenue, New York, 106. Our office in Washington is 202675239. I would also like to add a correction or an apology to Barbara Cohen, who called, somewhat furious, with a statement I made earlier, a statement that attempted clarification of my remarks…is that she was not able, or she did not feel comfortable with moderating this panel today. And I said I would make such a statement as a clarification of the remarks that I made earlier in the day.
Did she say why she wouldn’t feel comfortable?
You’ll have to call her with regard to that. I got this by telephone message, I’m making the apology public, she said she’d come down here, and, what was the statement Eleanor? I can’t recall. “Make a condemnatory statement for what my earlier remarks,” I’m trying to clarify them, to the extent that I know…I misconstrued them or misrepresented them. In any event, I want also to call your attention to the fact that MacNeil-Lehrer tonight will have, I think, a few of our panelists participating in the MacNeil-Lehrer Hour…we have, I think have been taped, I know we have been taped by C-Span, so I know we’ll have the videotapes available, I think we were covered by other networks, and to the extent that we’ll have the materials available, we will do so. We will also have an edited transcript [not the same as this transcript on pastebin at URL http://pastebin.com/kWkuBq9D which is by the uploader] and again, thank you for coming, ladies and gentlemen, very much. [applause]