cj#355> October Surprise X-Files (long)

1995-12-20

Richard Moore

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Date:         Tue, 19 Dec 1995
>From: Robert Parry <•••@••.•••>
Subject:      October Surprise X-Files (Part 2): The Ladies' Room
To: Multiple recipients of list ACTIV-L <•••@••.•••>

>>From The Consortium Web Page http://www.delve.com/consort.html

   * October Surprise X-Files (Part 2): The Ladies' Room

By Robert Parry

@Copyright 1995

WASHINGTON -- After its release on Jan. 13, 1993, the House task force
report on the October Surprise controversy quickly hardened into
historical concrete.  Its conclusion that there was "no credible
evidence" to support the allegations of Republican sabotage in the 1980
Iran hostage crisis won acclaim across the political spectrum.

Columnist David Broder lauded Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind., the task force
chairman, as the "conscience of Congress" for repudiating the
accusations of GOP wrongdoing. No one, it seemed, examined the quality
of the investigation or listened to the few dissenting voices.

But in the months following the task force's findings, more foreign
leaders in positions to know told other Americans that there was more
to the October Surprise story than the task force found. Palestine
Liberation Organization chairman Yasir Arafat informed American
journalist Richard Fricker that senior Republicans had traveled to
Beirut in 1980 seeking avenues to the Iranian leadership.

In a May 1993 videotaped interview in Tel Aviv, former Israeli Prime
Minister Yitzhak Shamir was asked "was there an October Surprise?" and
he responded "of course, it was." In another interview, retired Israeli
General Yehoshua Saguy, who was head of Israeli military intelligence
in 1980, said Prime Minister Menachem Begin claimed American approval
for Israel's secret 1980 weapons shipments to Iran. But the approval
had not come from President Carter, who had angrily objected to the
shipments when he learned of them.

The French Spymaster

Alexandre deMarenches, the man who ran French intelligence in 1980,
privately mocked the House task force findings and let stand the sworn
testimony of his biographer that he (deMarenches) had arranged meetings
between Ronald Reagan's campaign chief William J. Casey and Iranians in
Paris in October 1980.

In December 1992, deMarenches's biographer, David Andelman, an ex-New
York Times and CBS News correspondent, had testified before the task
force that deMarenches had discussed the Paris meetings while the two
were writing deMarenches's autobiography, The Fourth World War. After
Andelman's testimony, the task force called deMarenches. But when the
imperious French spymaster failed to return the call, the task force
concluded, paradoxically, that Andelman's testimony was "credible" but
lacked "probative value."

These newer witnesses also were corroborating longstanding claims about
Republican interference that had been made by top Iranians of the
period, including Iran's President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, Foreign
Minister Sadeq Ghotzbadeh and Defense Minister Ahmed Madani. Other
testimony supporting the October Surprise charges had come from
intelligence agents with confirmed ties to Israel, France and the
United States.

But the dismissive House task force report effectively buried the
October Surprise story as an historical issue. Washington's
conventional wisdom readily accepted that there had been no Republican
contacts to Iran in 1980; that Casey, George Bush and other Reagan
campaign officials had been falsely accused.

Then, last year, senior representatives of Iran's current government
held informal talks in Europe with Americans close to President
Clinton. Like deMarenches, these Iranians were amused at how wrong the
House task force had been. Casey indeed had made secret overtures to
Iran during the hostage crisis of 1980, these Iranians said.

The new Iranian claims were relayed to the highest levels of the
Clinton administration. But fearing how a reopened October Surprise
investigation might look, the White House refused to reconsider the
House task force findings. For reasons perhaps explained best by
Washington's acute sense for sniffing career danger, the October
Surprise story had become one of the capital's most powerful taboos.

The Ladies' Room Files

Given that reality, I hesitated before seeking access to the task
force's raw files. But having learned of the new Iranian claims, I
decided to go ahead. I obtained permission from the House International
Relations Committee to examine the task force's unclassified papers. I
was told that there had not been a single prior request for these
records that had been collecting dust in an obscure office off the
Rayburn House Office Building's parking garage, across from the U.S.
Capitol.

To reach the files required taking the Rayburn building's elevator to a
sub-basement floor and then winding through the musty underground
garage almost to the car exit at the building's south side. To the
right, behind venetian-blind-covered windows was a small locked office.
Inside were a few desks, cloth-covered partitions, phones and a
rumbling old copying machine.

At the rear of the office was a converted Ladies' Room, now used for
storage.  The task force's taped boxes sat against the wall, under an
empty tampon dispenser which still hung from the salmon-colored tiles.
I began pulling the tape off the boxes and poring through the files.
Not only did I find unclassified notes and documents about the task
force's work, but also "secret" and even "top secret" papers that had
been left behind, apparently in the haste to wrap up the
investigation.

A few "secret" depositions were there, including one of a senior CIA
officer named Charles Cogan. Cogan testified that he had attended a
1981 meeting at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., in which a
high-ranking Republican commented to Casey about their success in
disrupting Carter's "October Surprise," the term used to describe
President Carter's hope for a last-minute release of the 52 American
hostages held in Iran.

FBI Wiretaps

Another box contained a "secret" summary of FBI wiretaps placed on
phones belonging to Cyrus Hashemi, an Iranian financier who had worked
for the CIA in 1980. Hashemi also was a key Carter intermediary in the
hostage talks. But in fall 1980, the wiretaps showed Hashemi receiving
a $3 million deposit arranged by a Houston lawyer who claimed to be
associated with then-vice presidential candidate George Bush.

After the 1980 election, the Houston lawyer was back on the phone
promising Hashemi help from "the Bush people" for one of Hashemi's
failing investments.  And shortly after President Reagan's
Inauguration, a second mysterious payment to Hashemi arrived from
London by Concorde, via a courier for the Bank of Credit and Commerce
International (BCCI).

There were notes, too, describing Bush's active involvement in
monitoring President Carter's Iran hostage negotiations. According to
one set of notes, dated Oct. 27, 1980, Bush instructed foreign policy
adviser Richard Allen to funnel last-minute information about the
negotiations back to him via Theodore Shackley, the CIA's former deputy
director for operations.

Still, another file contained a summary of all "secret" and "top
secret" State Department records on arms sales to Iran in the 1980s.
One "top secret/sensitive" document recounted private meetings that
Secretary of State Alexander Haig had with Middle Eastern leaders
during a trip in May 1981. The leaders told Haig about the continuing
secret flow of weapons from Israel to Iran.

I also found a "confidential" October Surprise report that had been
sent by Russia's Supreme Soviet informing the task force that Moscow's
national security files contained evidence that Casey, Bush and other
Republicans had negotiated secretly with Iranians in Europe in 1980.
[See "The Consortium," Dec. 11, 1995, Vol. 1, No. 1]

All of this information had been excluded from the House task force
report. And after the report was completed, the documents were left
unceremoniously behind on the floor of the converted Ladies' Room.

'A Trap Door'

Other task force papers in the boxes revealed how flimsy the report's
October Surprise debunking had been. Even, task force chief counsel E.
Lawrence Barcella was nervous about the weaknesses. On Dec. 8, 1992, he
instructed his deputies "to put some language in, as a trap door" in
case later disclosures disproved parts of the report or if complaints
arose about selective omission of evidence.

"This report does not and could not reflect every single lead that was
investigated, every single phone call that was made, every single
contact that was established," Barcella suggested as "trap door"
wording. "Similarly, the task force did not resolve every single one of
the scores of 'curiosities,' 'coincidences,' sub-allegations or
question marks that have been raised over the years and become part of
the October Surprise story."

But as the documents made clear, many of those "coincidences" left out
were historically important. The October Surprise story connected some
of the world's most powerful figures in secret interlocking business
deals. The documents also revealed an investigation that not only
overlooked a few "curiosities" or failed to mention a "lead" or two,
but an inquiry that consistently slanted the evidence.

The boxes of documents revealed that the task force used false alibis
on Casey's whereabouts for key October Surprise dates; withheld
relevant documents and testimony that clashed with its conclusions;
dismissed credible witnesses who supplied unwelcome support for the
allegations; and accepted dubious -- if not blatantly false --
testimony from Republicans.

Conflicts of Interest

In addition, the task force's files contained new evidence of conflicts
of interest for the House investigators, particularly chief counsel
Barcella. In the 1980s, he had been a lead attorney for the corrupt
international bank, BCCI, which paid his firm more than $2 million to
shield it from press and governmental investigations. At that time,
Barcella also was a law partner of Paul Laxalt, who had been chairman
of the Reagan-Bush campaign in 1980.

Indeed, the Ladies' Room files showed that a fascinating chapter of
recent American history -- the story of the pivotal 1980 election --
had been seriously miswritten. Even if one still judges that the
evidence falls short of proving an explicit Republican-Iranian "deal"
to delay the release of the 52 American hostages, the facts do point to
significant GOP interference in President Carter's negotiations during
the campaign.

Much of that missing history was there in the documents.

   * Next Week: FBI's Secret Wiretaps of Casey's Iranian -- Part 3 of the
     'October Surprise X-Files'

   * Subscribe to The Consortium!  (see subscription info on our web page)

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 Posted by Richard K. Moore (•••@••.•••) Wexford, Ireland
 •••@••.•••  | Cyberlib=http://www.internet-eireann.ie/cyberlib
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