More Details of the Iran Contra Scandal
Table of Contents:
- List of Prosecutions/ Convictions
- Basic Facts of Iran Contra Scandal
- Roles of President Reagan and Vice President Bush
- Concluding Observations/ Policy Issues
- Bush Denials/ Rebuttals
- Reagan Denials/ Rebuttals
- End of this series of documents
Conclusions, Special Prosecutor Regarding the Iran-Contra Investigation: Aug 4, 1993
- Events that became known as the Iran-contra affair led to the most serious
constitutional crisis during the presidency of Ronald Reagan. This conflict pitted
the will of Congress against the powers of the executive branch. Congressional
investigations in the House and Senate were launched over secret arms sales to
Iran in order to finance war efforts in Nicaragua, where the Reagan
administration supported contra rebels fighting to overthrow the leftist
Sandinista government. At issue was the president's behavior in the matter and
how much he knew about the arms sales. Neither President Reagan nor Vice
President George Bush were held accountable for any wrongdoing in the matter,
although fourteen others, including several top White House aids, were charged
- In 1984 Congress passed the second of three "Boland Amendments," named for
Edward Boland (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. This
amendment specifically banned aid to the contra rebels from the funds of the
Central Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon, or any other part of the U.S.
government. To skirt the will of Congress, and the law in the matter, Marine
Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North began a clandestine operation from the White
House to secretly sell arms to Iran and divert the money to the contra rebels.
North also raised funds from wealthy conservatives in the United States who
were willing to help underwrite the war against the Sandinistas, whom many
conservatives saw as a puppet regime of the Soviet Union. Other members of the
Reagan administration secretly sought help from leaders in foreign governments,
including King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, who funneled upwards of $2 million per
month to the contra rebels.
- In December 1986 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia
appointed an independent counsel, Lawrence E. Walsh, to investigate the sale
and shipment of arms to Iran and the diversion of funds from such sales to
Nicaragua. The independent counsel's investigation led to charges against
fourteen individuals. All were convicted of various crimes mentioned in the
document that follows. Two prominent figures in the case—Oliver North and
John Poindexter—had their convictions overturned on appeal and President Bush
pardoned two others in 1992.
- In 1993, five years after President Reagan left office and a year after President
Bush was defeated for reelection, the independent counsel submitted a
three-volume Final Report of the Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra Matters to the
U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The court ordered the Final
Report to be released to the public. Although much of the evidence contained in
the report was revealed in one form or another earlier in the investigation, this
Final Report presented a clear statement of the issues involved in the complex web
of deception, law breaking, and lies known as Iran-contra. The Final Report
documented examples of the abuse of executive power and the inability and
unwillingness of Congress to take firm action to correct the situation, despite
House and Senate investigations into the matter. In the statements of former
presidents Reagan and Bush included in volume III of the Final Report (see
document 181) the Iran-contra matter was portrayed not as a major
constitutional crisis, but as a disagreement over foreign policy between Congress
and the White House.
- In October and November 1986, two secret U.S. Government operations were
publicly exposed, potentially implicating Reagan Administration officials in illegal
activities. These operations were the prevision of assistance to the military activities of
the Nicaraguan contra rebels during an October 1984 to October 1986 prohibition on
such aid, and the sale of U.S. arms to Iran in contravention of stated U.S. policy and in
possible violation of arms-export controls. In late November 1986, Reagan
Administration officials announced that some of the proceeds from the sale of U.S.
arms to Iran had been diverted to the contras.
- As a result of the exposure of those operations, Attorney General Edwin Meese III
sought the appointment of an independent counsel to investigate and, if necessary,
prosecute possible crimes arising from them.
- The Special Division of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia
Circuit appointed Lawrence E. Walsh as Independent Counsel on December 19,
1986, and charged him with investigating:
- the direct or indirect sale, shipment, or transfer since in or about 1984 down to the
present, of military arms, materiel, or funds to the government of Iran, officials of that
government, persons, organizations or entities connected with or purporting to represent
that government, or persons located in Iran;
- the direct or indirect sale, shipment, or transfer of military arms, materiel or funds to
any government, entity, or person acting, or purporting to act as an intermediary in any
transaction referred to above;
- the financing or funding of any direct or indirect sale, shipment or transfer referred to
- the diversion of proceeds from any transaction described above to or for any person,
organization, foreign government, or any faction or body of insurgents in any foreign
country, including, but not limited to Nicaragua;
- the provision or coordination of support for persons or entities engaged as military
insurgents in armed conflict with the government of Nicaragua since 1984.
Final report of that investigation:
- The investigations and prosecutions have shown the highranking Administration officials
violated laws and executive orders in Iran/contra matter.
- Independent Counsel concluded that:
- —sales of arms to Iran contravened United States Government policy and may have
violated the Arms Export Control Act;
- —the provision and coordination of support to the contras violated the Boland
Amendment ban on aid to military activities in Nicaragua;
- —the policies behind both the Iran and contra operations were fully reviewed and
developed at the highest levels of the Reagan Administration;
- —although there was little evidence of National Security Council level knowledge of most
of the actual contra-support operations, there was no evidence that any NSC [National
Security Council] member dissented from the underlying policy—keeping the contras
alive despite congressional limitations on contra support;
- —Iran operations were carried out with the knowledge of, among others, President Ronald
Reagan, Vice President George Bush, Secretary of State George P. Shultz, Secretary of
Defense Caspar W. Weinberger, Director of Central Intelligence William J. Casey, and
national security advisers Robert C. McFarlane and John M. Poindexter; of these officials,
only Weinberger and Shultz dissented from the policy decision, and Weinberger
eventually acquiesced by ordering the Department of Defense to provide the necessary
- —large volumes of highly relevant, contemporaneously created documents were
systematically and willfully withheld from investigators by several Reagan Administration
- —following the revelation of these operations in October and November 1986, Reagan
Administration officials deliberately deceived the Congress and the public about the level
and extent of official knowledge of and support for these operations.
- In addition, Independent Counsel concluded that the off-the-books nature of the Iran
and contra operations gave line-level personnel the opportunity to commit money
- In the course of Independent Counsel's investigation, 14 persons were charged with
criminal violations. There were two broad classes of crimes charged: Operational
crimes, which largely concerned the illegal use of funds generated in the course of the
operations, and "cover-up" crimes, which largely concerned false statements and
obstructions after the revelation of the operations. Independent Counsel did not charge
violations of the Arms Export Control Act or Boland Amendment. Although apparent
violations of these statutes provided the impetus for the cover-up, they are not criminal
statutes and do not contain any enforcement provisions.
- All of the individuals charged were convicted, except for one CIA official whose case
was dismissed on national security grounds and two officials who received
unprecedented pre-trial pardons by President Bush following his electoral defeat in
1992. Two of the convictions were reversed on appeal on constitutional grounds that in
no way cast doubt on the factual guilt of the men convicted. The individuals charged
and the disposition of their cases are:
- Robert C. McFarlane: pleaded guilty to four counts of withholding information from
- Oliver L. North: convicted of altering and destroying documents, accepting an illegal
gratuity, and aiding and abetting in the obstruction of Congress; conviction reversed on
- John M. Poindexter: convicted of conspiracy, false statements, destruction and
removal of records, and obstruction of Congress; conviction reversed on appeal;
- Richard V. Secord: pleaded guilty to making false statements to Congress;
- Albert Hakim: pleaded guilty to supplementing the salary of North;
- Thomas G. Clines: convicted of four counts of tax-related offenses for failing to report
income from the operations;
- Carl R. Channell: pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States;
- Richard R. Miller: pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States;
- Clair E. George: convicted of false statements and perjury before Congress;
- Duane R. Clarridge: indicted on seven counts of perjury and false statements;
pardoned before trial by President Bush;
- Alan D. Fiers, Jr.: pleaded guilty to withholding information from Congress;
- Joseph F. Fernandez: indicted on four counts of obstruction and false statements;
case dismissed when Attorney General Richard L. Thornburgh refused to declassify
information needed for his defense;
- Elliott Abrams: pleaded guilty to withholding information from Congress;
- Caspar W. Weinberger: charged with four counts of false statements and perjury;
pardoned before trial by President Bush.
- At the time President Bush pardoned Weinberger and Clarridge, he also pardoned
George, Fiers, Abrams, and McFarlane.
The Basic Facts of Iran/Contra
- The Iran/contra affair concerned two secret Reagan Administration policies whose
operations were coordinated by National Security Council staff. The Iran operation
involved efforts in 1985 and 1986 to obtain the release of Americans held hostage in
the Middle East through the sale of U.S. weapons to Iran, despite an embargo on such
sales. The contra operations from 1984 through most of 1986 involved the secret
governmental support of contra military and paramilitary activities in Nicaragua, despite
congressional prohibition of this support.
- The Iran and contra operations were merged when funds generated from the sale of
weapons to Iran were diverted to support the Contra effort in Nicaragua. Although this
"diversion" may be the most dramatic aspect of Iran/contra, it is important to emphasize
that both the Iran and contra operations, separately, violated United States policy and
law. The ignorance the "diversion" asserted by President Reagan and his Cabinet
officers on the National Security Council in no way absolves them of responsibility for
the underlying Iran and contra operations.
- The secrecy concerning the Iran and contra activities was finally pierced by events that
place thousands of miles apart in the fall of 1986. The first occurred on October 5,
1986, when Nicaraguan government soldiers downed an American cargo plane that
was carrying military supplies to contra forces; the one surviving crew member,
American Eugene Hasenfus, was taken into captivity and stated that he was employed
by the CIA. A month after the Hasenfus shootdown, President Reagan's secret sale of
U.S. arms to Iran was reported by a Lebanese publication on November 3. The joining
of these two operations was made public on November 25, 1986, when Attorney
General Meese announced that Justice Department officials had discovered that some
of the proceeds from the Iran arms sales been diverted to the contras.
- When these operations ended, the exposure of the Iran/contra affair generated a new
round of illegality. Beginning with the testimony of Elliott Abrams and others in October
1986 and continuing through the public testimony of Caspar W. Weinberger on the last
day of congressional hearings in the summer of 1987, senior Reagan Administration
officials engaged in a concerted effort to deceive Congress and the public about their
knowledge of and support for the operations.
- Independent Counsel has concluded that the President's most senior advisers and the
members on the National Security Council participated in the strategy to make National
Security staff members McFarland, Poindexter and North the scapegoats whose
sacrifice would protect the Reagan Administration in its final years. In an important
sense, this strategy succeeded. Independent Counsel discovered much of the best
evidence of the cover-up in final year of active investigation, too late for most
Scope of Report
- This report provides an account of the Independent Counsel's investigation, the
prosecutions, the basis for decisions not
to prosecute, and overall observations and conclusions on the Iran/contra matters.
- Part I of the report sets out the underlying facts of the Iran and contra operations. Part
II describes the criminal investigation of those underlying facts. Part M provides an
analysis of the central operational conspiracy. Parts IV through IX are agencylevel
reports of Independent Counsel's investigations and cases: the National Security staff,
the private operatives who assisted the NSC staff, Central Intelligence Agency officials,
Department of State officials, and White House officials and Attorney General Edwin
- Volume I of this report concludes with a chapter concerning political oversight and the
rule of law, and a final chapter containing independent Counsel's observations. Volume
II of the report contains supporting documentation. Volume III is a classified appendix.
- Because many will read only sections of the report, each has been written with
completeness, even though this has resulted in repetition of factual statements about
The Operational Conspiracy
- The operational conspiracy was the basis for Count One of the 23-count indictment
returned by the Grand Jury March 16, 1988, against Poindexter, North, Secord, and
Hakim. It charged the four with conspiracy to defraud the United States by deceitfully:
- supporting military operations in Nicaragua in defiance of congressional controls;
- using the Iran arms sales to raise funds to be spent at the direction of North, rather
than the U.S. Government; and
- endangering the Administration's hostage-release effort by overcharging Iran for the
arms to generate unauthorized profits to fund the contras and for other purposes.
- The charge was upheld as a matter of law by U.S. District Judge Gerhard A. Gesell
even though the Justice Department, in a move that Judge Gesell called
"unprecedented," filed an amicus brief supporting North's contention that the charge
should be dismissed. Although Count One was ultimately dismissed because the
Reagan Administration refused to declassify information necessary to North's defense,
Judge Gesell's decision established that high government officials who engage in
conspiracy to subvert civil laws and the Constitution have engaged in criminal acts. Trial
on Count One would have disclosed the Government-wide activities that supported
North's Iran and contra operations.
- Within the NSC, McFarlane pleaded guilty in March 1988 to four counts of
withholding information from Congress in connection with his denials that North was
providing the contras with military advice and assistance. McFarlane, in his plea
agreement, promised to cooperate with Independent Counsel by providing truthful
testimony in subsequent trials.
- Judge Gesell ordered severance of the trials of the four charged in the conspiracy
indictment because of the immunized testimony given by Poindexter, North and Hakim
to Congress. North was tried and convicted by a jury in May 1989 of altering and
destroying documents, accepting an illegal gratuity and aiding and abetting in the
obstruction of Congress. His conviction was reversed on appeal in July 1990 and
charges against North were subsequently dismissed in September 1991 on the ground
that trial witnesses were tainted by North's nationally televised, immunized testimony
before Congress. Poindexter in April 1990 was convicted by a jury on five felony
counts of conspiracy, false statements, destruction and removal of records and
obstruction of Congress. The Court of Appeals reversed his conviction in November
1991 on the immunized testimony issue.
The Flow of Funds
- The illegal activities of the private citizens involved with the North and Secord
operations are discussed in detail in Part V. The off-the-books conduct of the two
highly secret operations circumvented normal Administration accountability and
congressional oversight associated with covert ventures and presented fertile ground for
financial wrongdoing. There were several funding sources for the contras' weapons
purchases from the covert-action Enterprise formed by North, Secord and Hakim:
- donations from foreign countries;
- contributions from wealthy Americans sympathetic to President Reagan's contra
support policies; and
- the diversion of proceeds from the sale of arms to Iran.
- Ultimately, all of these funds fell under the control of North, and through him, Secord
North used political fundraisers Carl R. Channell and Richard R. Miller to raise millions
of dollars from wealthy Americans, illegally using a tax-exempt organization to do so.
These funds, along with the private contributions, were run through a network of
corporations and Swiss bank accounts put at North's disposal by Secord and Hakim,
through which transactions were concealed and laundered. In late 1985 through 1986
the Enterprise became centrally involved in the arms sales to Iran. As a result of both
the Iran and contra operations, more than $47 million flowed through Enterprise
- Professional fundraisers Channell and Miller pleaded guilty in the spring of 1987 to
conspiracy to defraud the Government by illegal use of a tax-exempt foundation to raise
contributions for the purchase of lethal supplies for the contras. They named North as
an unindicted co-conspirator.
- Secord pleaded guilty in November 1989 to a felony, admitting that he falsely denied to
Congress that North had personally benefited from the Enterprise. Hakim pleaded
guilty to the misdemeanor count of supplementing the salary of North. Lake Resources
Inc., the company controlled by Hakim to launder the Enterprise's money flow, pleaded
guilty to the corporate felony of theft of Government property in diverting the proceeds
from the arms sales to the contras and for other unauthorized purposes. Thomas G.
Clines was convicted in September 1990 of four tax-related felonies for failing to report
all of his income from the Enterprise.
Agency Support of the Operations
- Following the convictions of those who were most central to the Iran/contra operations,
Independent Counsel's investigation focused on the supporting roles played by
Government officials in other agencies and the supervisory roles of the NSC principals.
The investigation showed that Administration officials who claimed initially that they had
little knowledge about the Iran arms sales or the illegal contra-resupply operation North
directed were much better informed than they professed to be. The Office of
Independent Counsel [OIC] obtained evidence that Secretaries Weinberger and Shultz
and White House Chief of Staff Donald T. Regan, among others, held back information
that would have helped Congress obtain a much clearer view of the scope of the
Iran/contra matter. Contemporaneous notes of Regan and Weinberger, and those
dictated by Shultz, were withheld until they were obtained by Independent Counsel in
1991 and 1992.
The White House and Office of the Vice President [See also responses by Reagan and Bush below.]
- As the White House section of this report describes in detail, the investigation found no
credible evidence that President Reagan violated any criminal statute. The OIC could
not prove that Reagan authorized or was aware of the diversion or that he had
knowledge of the extent of North's control of the contra-resupply network.
Nevertheless, he set the stage for the illegal activities of others by encouraging and, in
general terms, ordering support of the contras during the October 1984 to October
1986 period when funds for the contras were cut off by the Boland Amendment, and in
authorizing the sale of arms to Iran, in contravention of the U.S. embargo on such sales.
The President's disregard for civil laws enacted to limit presidential actions
abroad—specifically the Boland Amendment, the Arms Export Control Act and
congressional-notification requirements in covert-action laws—created a climate in
which some of the Government officers assigned to implement his policies felt
emboldened to circumvent such laws.
- President Reagan's directive to McFarlane to keep the contras alive "body and soul"
during the Boland cut-off period was viewed by North, who was charged by
McFarlane to carry out the directive, as an invitation to break the law. Similarly,
President Reagan's decision in 1985 to authorize the sale of arms to Iran from Israeli
stocks, despite warnings by Weinberger and Shultz that such transfers might violate the
law, opened the way for Poindexter's subsequent decision to authorize the diversion.
Poindexter told Congress that while he made the decision on his own and did not tell
the President, he believed the President would have approved. North testified that he
believed the President authorized it.
- Independent Counsel's investigation did not develop evidence that proved that Vice
President Bush violated any criminal statute. Contrary to his public pronouncements,
however, he was fully aware of the Iran arms sales. Bush was regularly briefed, along
with the President, on the Iran arms sales, and he participated in discussions to obtain
third-country support for the contras. The OIC obtained no evidence that Bush was
aware of the diversion. The OIC teamed in December 1992 that Bush had failed to
produce a diary containing contemporaneous notes relevant to Iran/contra despite
requests made in 1987 and again in early 1992 for the production of such material.
Bush refused to be interviewed for a final time in light of evidence developed in the
latter stages of OIC's investigation, leaving unresolved a clear picture of his Iran/contra
involvement. Bush's pardon of Weinberger on December 24, 1992 preempted a trial in
which defense counsel indicated that they intended to call Bush as a witness.
- The chapters on White House Chief of Staff Regan and Attorney General Edwin
Meese III focus on their actions during the November 1986 period, as the President
and his advisers sought to control the damage caused by the disclosure of the Iran arms
sales. Regan in 1992 provided Independent Counsel with copies of notes showing that
Poindexter and Meese attempted to create a false account of the 1985 arms sales from
Israeli stocks, which they believed were illegal, in order to protect the President. Regan
and the other senior advisers did not speak up to correct the false version of events.
No final legal determination on the matter had been made. Regan said he did not want
to be the one who broke the silence among the President's senior advisers, virtually all
of whom knew the account was false.
- The evidence indicates that Meese's November 1986 inquiry was more of a
damage-control exercise than an effort to find the facts. He had private conversations
with the President, the Vice President, Poindexter, Weinberger, Casey and Regan
without taking notes. Even after teaming of the diversion, Meese failed to secure
records in NSC staff offices or take other prudent steps to protect potential evidence.
And finally, in reporting to the President and his senior advisers, Meese gave a false
account of what he had been told by stating that the President did not know about the
1985 HAWK shipments, which Meese said might have been illegal. The statute of
limitations had run on November 1986 activities before OIC obtained its evidence. In
1992, Meese denied recollection of the statements attributed to him by the notes of
Weinberger and Regan. He was unconvincing, but the passage of time would have
been expected to raise a reasonable doubt of the intentional falsity of his denials if he
had been prosecuted for his 1992 false statements.
The Role of CIA Officials
- Director Casey's unswerving support of President Reagan's contra policies and of the
Iran arms sales encouraged some CIA officials to go beyond legal restrictions in both
operations. Casey was instrumental in pairing North with Secord as a contra-support
team when the Boland Amendment in October 1994 forced the CIA to refrain from
direct or indirect aid. He also supported the North-Secord combination in the Iran
arms sales, despite deep reservations about Secord within the CIA hierarchy.
- Casey's position on the contras prompted the chief of the CIA's Central American
Task Force, Alan D. Fiers, Jr., to
"dovetail" CIA activities with those of North's contra-resupply network, in violation of
Boland restrictions. Casey's support for the NSC to direct the Iran arms sales and to
use arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar and Secord in the operation, forced the CIA's
Directorate of Operations to work with people it distrusted.
- Following the Hasenfus shootdown in early October 1986, George and Fiers lied to
Congress about U.S. Government involvement in contra resupply, to, as Fiers put it,
"keep the spotlight off the White House." When the Iran arms sales became public in
November 1986, three of Casey's key office officers—George, Clarridge and
Fiers—followed Casey's lead in misleading Congress.
- Four CIA officials were charged with criminal offense—George the deputy director for
operations and the third highest-ranking CIA official; Clarridge, chief of the European
Division; Fiers; and Fernandez. George was convicted of two felony counts of false
statements and perjury before Congress. Fiers pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor
counts of withholding information from Congress. The four counts of obstruction and
false statements against Fernandez were dismissed when the Bush Administration
refused to declassify information needed for his defense. Clarridge was awaiting trial on
seven counts of perjury and false statements when he, George and Piers were
pardoned by President Bush.
State Department Officials
- In 1990 and 1991, Independent Counsel received new documentary evidence in the
form of handwritten notes suggesting that Secretary Shultz's congressional testimony
painted a misleading and incorrect picture of his knowledge of the Iran arms sales. The
subsequent investigation focused on whether Shultz or other Department officials
deliberately misled or withheld information from congressional or OIC investigators.
- The key notes, taken by M. Charles Hill, Shultz's executive assistant, were nearly
verbatim, contemporaneous accounts of Shultz's meetings within the department and
Shultz's reports to Hill on meetings the secretary attended elsewhere. The Hill notes and
similarly detailed notes by Nicholas Platt, the State Department's executive secretary,
provided the OIC with a detailed account of Shultz's knowledge of the Iran arms sale.
The most revealing of these notes were not provided to any Iran/Contra investigation
until 1990 and 1991. The notes show that—contrary to his early testimony that he was
not aware of details of the 1985 arms transfers—Shultz knew that the shipments were
planned and that they were delivered. Also in conflict with his congressional testimony
was evidence that Shultz was aware of the 1986 shipments.
- Independent Counsel concluded that Shultz's early testimony was incorrect, if not false,
in significant respects, and misleading, if literally true, in others. When questioned about
the discrepancies in 1992, Shultz did not dispute the accuracy of the Hill notes. He told
OIC that he believed his testimony was accurate at the time and he insisted that if he
had been provided with the notes earlier, he would have testified differently.
Independent Counsel declined to prosecute because there was a reasonable doubt that
Shultz's testimony was willfully false at the time it was delivered.
- Independent Counsel concluded that Hill had willfully withheld relevant notes and
prepared false testimony for Shultz in 1987. He declined to prosecute because Hill's
claim of authorization to limit the production of his notes and the joint responsibility of
Shultz for the resulting misleading testimony, would at trial have raised a reasonable
doubt, after Independent Counsel had declined to prosecute Shultz.
- Independent Counsel's initial focus on the State Department had centered on Assistant
Secretary Elliott Abrams' insistence to Congress and to the OIC that he was not aware
of North's direction of the extensive contra-resupply network in 1985 and 1986. As
assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs, Abrams chaired the Restricted
Inter-Agency Group, or RIG, which coordinated U.S. policy in Central America.
Although the OIC was skeptical about Abrams' testimony, there was insufficient
evidence to proceed against him until additional documentary evidence inculpating him
was discovered in 1990 and 1991, and until Fiers, who represented the CIA on the
RIG, pleaded guilty in July 1991 to withholding information from Congress. Fiers
provided evidence to support North's earlier testimony that Abrams was
knowledgeable about North's contra-supply network. Abrams pleaded guilty in
October 1991 to two counts of withholding information from Congress about secret
Government efforts to support the contras, and about his solicitation of $10 million to
aid the contras from the Sultan of Brunei.
Secretary Weinberger and Defense Department Officials
- Contrary to their testimony to the presidentially appointed Tower Commission and the
Select Iran/contra Committees of Congress, Independent Counsel determined that
Secretary Weinberger and his closest aides were consistently informed of proposed
and actual arms shipments to Iran during 1985 and 1986. The key evidence was
handwritten notes of Weinberger, which he deliberately withheld from Congress and
the OIC until they were discovered by independent counsel in late 1991. The
Weinberger daily diary notes and notes of significant White House and other meetings
contained highly relevant, contemporaneous information that resolved many questions
left unanswered in early investigations.
- The notes demonstrated that Weinberger's early testimony—that he had only vague and
general information about Iran arms sales in 1985—was false, and that he in fact had
detailed information on the proposed arms sales and the actual deliveries. The notes
also revealed that Gen. Colin Powell, Weinberger's senior military aide, and Richard L.
Armitage, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, also had
detailed knowledge of the 1985 shipments from Israeli stocks. Armitage and Powell
had testified that they did not learn of the November 1985 HAWK missile shipment
- Weinberger's notes provided detailed accounts of high-level Administration meetings in
November 1986 in which the President's senior advisers were provided with false accounts of the Iran arms sales to
protect the President and themselves from the consequences of the possibly illegal
1995 shipments from Israeli stocks.
- Weinberger's notes provided key evidence supporting the charges against him,
including perjury and false statements in connection with his testimony regarding the
arms sales, his denial of the existence of notes and his denial of knowledge of Saudi
Arabia's multi-million dollar contribution to the contras. He was pardoned less than two
weeks before trial by President Bush on December 24, 1992.
- There was little evidence that Powell's early testimony regarding the 1985 shipments
and Weinberger's notes was willfully false. Powell cooperated with the various
Iran/contra investigations and, when his recollection was refreshed by Weinberger's
notes, he readily conceded their accuracy. Independent Counsel declined to prosecute
Armitage because the OIC's limited resources were focused on the case against
Weinberger and because the evidence against Armitage, while substantial, did not reach
the threshold of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
The Reagan, Bush and Casey Segments
The Independent Counsel Act requires a report as to persons not indicted as well as
those indicted. Because of the large number of persons investigated, those discussed in
individual sections of this report are limited to those as to whom there was a possibility
of indictment. In addition there are separate sections on President Reagan and
President Bush because, although criminal proceedings against them were always
unlikely, they were important subjects of the investigation, and their activities were
important action taken with respect to others.
- CIA Director Casey is a special case. Because Casey was hospitalized with a fatal
illness before Independent Counsel was appointed, no formal investigation of Casey
was ever undertaken by the OIC. Casey was never able to give his account, and he
was unable to respond to allegations of wrongdoing made about him by others, most
prominently North, whose veracity is subject to serious question. Equally important,
fundamental questions could not be answered regarding Casey's state of mind, the
impact, if any, of his fatal illness on his conduct and his intent.
- Under normal circumstances, a prosecutor would hesitate to comment on the conduct
of an individual whose activities and actions were not subjected to rigorous
investigation, which might exculpate that individual. Nevertheless, after serious
deliberation, Independent Counsel concluded that it was in the public interest that this
report expose as full and complete an account of the Iran/contra matter as possible.
This simply could not be done without an account of the, role of Director Casey.
Part XI— Concluding Observations
- The underlying facts of Iran/contra are that, regardless of criminality, President Reagan,
the secretary of state, the secretary of defense, and the director of central intelligence
and their necessary assistants committed themselves, however reluctantly, to two
programs contrary to congressional policy and contrary to national policy. They skirted
the law, some of them broke the law, and almost all of them tried to cover up the
President's willful activities.
- What protection do the people of the United States have against such a concerted
action by such powerful officers? The Constitution provides for congressional oversight
and congressional control of appropriations, but if false information is given to
Congress, these checks and balances are of lessened value. Further, in the give and
take of the political community, congressional oversight is often overtaken and
subordinated by the need to keep Government functioning, by the need to anticipate the
future, and by the ever-present requirement of maintaining consensus among the elected
officials who are the Government.
- The disrespect for Congress by a popular and powerful President and his appointees
was obscured when Congress accepted the tendered concept of a runaway conspiracy
of subordinate officers and avoided the unpleasant confrontation with a powerful
President and his Cabinet. In haste to display and conclude its investigation of this
unwelcome issue, Congress destroyed the most effective lines of inquiry by giving
immunity to Oliver L. North and John M. Poindexter so that they could exculpate and
eliminate the need for the testimony of President Reagan and Vice President Bush.
- Immunity is ordinarily given by a prosecutor to a witness who will incriminate someone
more important than himself Congress gave immunity to North and Poindexter, who
incriminated only themselves and who largely exculpated those responsible for the
initiation, supervision and support of their activities. This delayed and infinitely
complicated the effort to prosecute North and Poindexter, and it largely destroyed the
likelihood that their prompt conviction and appropriate sentence would induce
- These important political decisions were properly the responsibility of Congress. It was
for the Committees to decide whether the welfare of the nation was served or
endangered by a continuation of its investigation, a more deliberate effort to test the
self-serving denials presented by Cabinet officers and to search for the full ramifications
of the activities in question. Having made this decision, however, no one could gainsay
the added difficulties thrust upon Independent Counsel. These difficulties could be dealt
with only by the investment of large amounts of additional time and large amounts of
- The role of Independent Counsel is not well understood. Comparisons to United States
attorneys, county district attorneys, or private law offices do not conceive the nature of
Independent Counsel. Independent Counsel is not an individual put in charge of an
ongoing agency as an acting U.S. attorney might be; he is a person taken from private
practice and told to create a new agency, to carry out the mission assigned by the
court. It is not as though he were told to step in and try a case on the calendar of an
ongoing office with full support of the Government behind him, as it would be behind
the United States attorney. He is told to create an office and to confront the
Government without any expectation of real cooperation, and, indeed, with the
expectation of hostility, however veiled. That hostility will manifest itself in the failure to
declassify information, in the suppression of documents, and in all of the evasive
techniques of highly skilled and large, complex organizations.
- The investigation into Iran/contra nevertheless demonstrates that the rule of law upon
which our democratic system of government depends can be applied to the highest
officials even when they are operating in the secret areas or diplomacy and national
- Despite extraordinary difficulties imposed by the destruction and withholding of
records, the need to protect classified information, and the congressional grants of
immunity to some of the principals involved, Independent Counsel was able to bring
criminal charges against nine government officers and five private citizens involved in
illegal activities growing out of the Iran/contra affair.
- More importantly, the investigation and the prosecutions arising out of it have provided
a much more accurate picture of how two secret Administration policies keeping the
contras alive "body and soul" during the Boland cutoff period and seeking the release of
Americans held hostage by selling arms to Iran veered off into criminality.
- Evidence obtained by Independent Counsel establishes that the Iran/contra affair was
not an aberrational scheme carried out by a "cabal of zealots" on the National Security
Council staff, as the congressional Select Committees concluded in their majority
report. Instead, it was the product of two foreign policy directives by President Reagan
which skirted the law and which were executed by the NSC staff with the knowledge
and support of high officials in the CIA, State and, Defense departments, and to a
lesser extent, officials in other agencies.
- Independent Counsel found no evidence of dissent among his Cabinet officers from the
President's determination to support the contras after federal law banned the use of
appropriated funds for that purpose in the Boland Amendment in October 1984. Even
the two Cabinet officers who opposed the sale of arms to Iran on the grounds that it
was illegal and bad policy—Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger and Secretary
of State George P. Shultz—either cooperated with the decision once made, as in the
case of Weinberger, or stood aloof from it while being kept informed of its progress, as
was the case of Shultz.
- In its report section titled "Who Was Responsible," the Select Committees named CIA
Director William Casey, National Security Advisers Robert C. McFarlane and John M.
Poindexter, along with NSC staff member Oliver L. North, and private sector
operatives Richard V. Secord and Albert Hakim. With the exception of Casey who
died before he could questioned by the OIC, Independent Counsel and obtained
criminal convictions of charges of each of the men named by Congress. There is little
doubt that, operationally, these men were central players.
- But the investigation and prosecutions have shown that these six were not
out-of-control mavericks who acted alone without the knowledge or assistance of
others. The evidence establishes that the central NSC operatives kept their
superiors—including Reagan, Bush, Shultz, Weinberger and other high
officials—informed of their efforts generally, if not in detail, and
their superiors either condoned or turned a blind eye to them. When it was required,
the NSC principals and their private sector operatives received the assistance of
high-ranking officers in the CIA, the Defense Department, and the Department of State.
- Of the 14 persons charged criminally during the investigation, four were convicted of
felony charges after trial by jury, seven pleaded guilty either to felonies or
misdemeanors, and one had his case dismissed because the Administration refused to
declassify information deemed necessary to the defendant by the trial judge. Two cases
that were awaiting trial were aborted by pardons granted by President Bush. As this
report explained earlier, many persons who committed crimes were not charged. Some
minor crimes were never investigated and some that were investigated were not solved.
But Independent Counsel believes that to the extent possible, the central Iran/contra
crimes were vigorously prosecuted and the significant acts of obstruction were fully
- Fundamentally, the Iran/contra affair was the first known criminal assault on the
post-Watergate rules governing the activities of national security officials. Reagan
Administration officials rendered these rules ineffective by creating private operations,
supported with privately generated funds that successfully evaded executive and
legislative oversight and control. Congress was defrauded. Its appropriations
restrictions having been circumvented, Congress was led to believe that the
Administration was following the law. Numerous congressional inquiries were thwarted
through false testimony and the destruction and concealment of government records.
- The destruction and concealment of records and information, beginning at the twilight of
Iran/contra and continuing throughout subsequent investigations, should be of particular
concern. Oliver North's destruction of records in October and November 1986 caused
an irretrievable loss of information to the executive agencies responsible for regulating
clandestine activities, to Congress, and to Independent Counsel. John Poindexter's
efforts to destroy NSC electronic mail nearly resulted in comparable damage. CIA
Costa Rican Station Chief Joseph F. Fernandez attempted to hide phone records that
would have revealed his contacts with Enterprise activities.
- This sort of obstruction continued even after Independent Counsel's appointment. In the
course of his work, Independent Counsel located large caches of handwritten notes
and other documents maintained by high officials that were never relinquished to
investigators. Major aspects of Iran/contra would never have been uncovered had all of
the officials who attempted to destroy or withhold their records of the affair succeeded.
Had these contemporaneous records been produced to investigators when they were
initially requested, many of the troublesome conflicts between key witnesses would
have been resolved, and timely legal steps taken toward those who feigned memory
lapses or lied outright.
- All of this conduct—the evasions of the Executive branch and the Congress, the lies,
the conspiracies, the acts of obstruction—had to be addressed by the criminal justice
- The path Independent Counsel embarked upon in late 1986 had been a long and
arduous one. When he hired 10 attorneys in early 1987, Independent Counsel's
conception of the operational conspiracy—with its array of Government officials and
private contractors, its web of secret foreign accounts, and its world-wide
breadth—was extremely hazy. Outlining an investigation of a runaway conspiracy
disavowed by the President was quite different from the ultimate investigation of the
President and three major agencies, each with the power to frustrate an investigation by
persisting in the classification of non-secret but embarrassing information. Completing
the factual mosaic required examining pieces spread worldwide in activities that
occurred over a three-year period by officials from the largest agencies of government
and a host of private operatives who, by necessity, design and training, worked secretly
and deceptively. . . . .
- The Iran/contra investigation will not end the kind of abuse of power that it addressed
any more than the Watergate investigation did. The criminality in both affairs did not
arise primarily out of ordinary venality or greed, although some of those charged were
driven by both. Instead, the crimes committed in Iran/contra were motivated by the
desire of persons in high office to pursue controversial policies and goals even when the
pursuit of those policies and goals was inhibited or restricted by executive orders,
statutes or the constitutional system of checks and balances.
- The tone in Iran/contra was set by President Reagan. He directed that the contras be
supported, despite a ban on contra aid imposed on him by Congress. And he was
willing to trade arms to Iran for the release of Americans held hostage in the Middle
East, even if doing so was contrary to the nation's stated policy and possibly in violation
of the law.
- The lesson of Iran/contra is that if our system of government is to function properly, the
branches of government must deal with one another honestly and cooperatively. When
disputes arise between the Executive and Legislative branches, as they surely will, the
laws that emerge from such disputes must be obeyed.
- When a President, even with good motive and intent, chooses to skirt the laws or to
circumvent them, it is incumbent upon his subordinates to resist, not join in. Their oath
and fealty are to the Constitution and the rule of law, not to the man temporarily
occupying the Oval Office. Congress has the duty and the power under our system of
checks and balances to ensure that the President and his Cabinet officers are faithful to
- Source: Final Report of the Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra Matters, Vol. 1:
Investigations and Prosecutions, August 4, 1993 (Washington, D.C.: U.S.
Government Printing Office, 1993), xiii–xxi, 561–566.
Presidents Bush and Reagan Regarding Their Role in Iran-Contra: Dec 3, 1993
- Historical Background: The Iran-contra affair was the most significant constitutional crisis between the
executive branch and Congress during the presidency of Ronald Reagan. The Iran-contra investigation by independent
counsel Lawrence E. Walsh took almost seven years to complete. As part of the
Final Report of the Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra Matters, published for the
first time in 1993, former presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush submitted
statements for the record, through their attorneys, that gave their views on the
Iran-contra affair. The independent counsel's investigation concluded that both
President Reagan and then Vice President Bush, as well as other top
administration officials, had knowledge of the Iran operations.
- In Bush's statement, he concluded that the investigation had ''largely been an
inquiry into a political dispute between a Republican Administration and a
Democratic Congress over foreign policy." While recognizing the affair as a
serious constitutional struggle between Congress and the White House over the
conduct of foreign policy, Bush objected to the independent counsel's attempt to
turn this partisan political struggle into criminal behavior. In his statement Bush
also explained why, on Christmas eve 1992—just weeks before his term of office
was up—he pardoned former secretary of defense Caspar Weinberger and others
convicted in the Iran-contra affair.
- In the statement prepared by President Reagan's attorneys, Reagan concluded
that "the Iran-Contra Independent Counsel has misused and abused the reporting
process that is mandated by the independent counsel statute. The Final Report
unfairly and unnecessarily injures the rights and reputations of individuals, relies
on innuendo, speculation, and conjecture instead of proof, violates established
standards governing the conduct of prosecutors, and improperly relies on secret
grand jury materials to support the Independent Counsel's many accusations."
Statement of Former President George H. W. Bush
investigation conducted by the Office of Independent Counsel ("OIC")
under Judge Lawrence Walsh has largely been an inquiry into a political
dispute between a Republican administration and a Democratic Congress
over foreign policy. OIC has spent over six years and $40 million
trying to give a criminal hue to the serious constitutional struggle
over separation of powers between the Congress and the Executive in
the foreign policy area. While the Report speculates that laws were
broken by certain Administration officials other than President Bush,
the real thrust of its conclusions relate to purported contravention
of government policy. The Independent Counsel's authorizing legislation
did not contemplate the investigation of such policy differences.
- Congress has used the Independent Counsel statute as a tool for inserting itself into
foreign policy, which is reserved under the Constitution to the Executive. An attempt to
criminalize public policy differences jeopardizes any President's ability to govern. By
seeking to craft criminal violations from a political foreign policy dispute, OIC was cast
in a biased Position from the beginning. Notwithstanding this inherent bias, however, the
Report does not and cannot dispute that:
- (1) President Bush was unaware of the contra diversion as he has always maintained;
- (2) President Bush told the truth in both his 1988 deposition to the OIC, which
subsequently he released to the public, and in his 1987 FBI interview; and
- (3) President Bush never violated any criminal statute.
- Furthermore, despite statements or inferences in the Report to the contrary:
- (1) President Bush issued the pardons of Caspar Weinberger and others because he
believed it was the right and courageous thing to do. He was not concerned about the
upcoming trials nor that he might be called as a witness by the defense.
- (2) President Bush completely cooperated with OIC's investigation. As the Report
even states, he told his staff to "give them [OIC] everything."
- (3) President Bush had no idea that his personal, political thoughts, dictated well after
the events of Iran-contra, were responsive to any OIC document requests until a
member of his staff discovered them in a safe and reviewed them in late September
1992. President Bush immediately directed that the diary be turned over to White
House Counsel Boyden Gray for his review, which was done. Mr. Gray subsequently
produced the diary to OIC in December.
- (4) President Bush's diary was exculpatory and would have had no material effect on
the investigation had it been produced sooner. The Report acknowledges that the
contents of the diary did not justify a reopening of the investigation.
- (5) President Bush, through King & Spalding, provided OIC with thousands of
additional documents in 1993 that related, generally to Iran-contra, even though OIC
had declared months earlier that the investigation was finished.
- (6) President Bush would have a to a final interview/deposition under reasonable
conditions. OIC refused to negotiate and decided to simply declare in its Report that
the President was uncooperative.
I—Iran Arms Sale
- President Bush has always acknowledged that he was aware that arms were sold to
Iran. The Report offers nothing new on this issue.
- On December 3, 1986, then Vice-President Bush told the American public about his
knowledge of the Iran arms initiative immediately after the story broke:
- I was aware of our Iran initiative and I support the President's decision. I was not aware of
and I oppose any diversion of funds, any ransom payments, or any circumvention of the
will of the Congress, the law or the United States of America.
Speech to American Enterprise Institute ("AEI")
- This statement was accurate, and the Report offers no evidence to the contrary.
Inexplicably, however the Report contends that President Bush's public statements
conflicted with his deposition testimony and FBI interview, all of which reflected his
knowledge of the Iran arms sales. The Report is simply wrong.
- Most importantly President Bush did not believe there was anything illegal about the
arms sale to Iran. In fact, after six years of investigation and expenditures of $40
million, OIC remains unsure whether any laws were violated by the arms sale. As the
Report acknowledges, the Reagan Administration Justice Department issued an opinion
that the shipments of U.S. weapons to Iran did not violate the law. President Bush
was never advised by anyone that the Iran arms shipments were illegal.
- President Bush was unaware of the contra diversion until the news of the diversion
broke publicly in November 1986. The Report confirms this fact.
- Moreover, the Report found that there was an effort to keep then Vice-President
Bush and his staff in the dark about the entire resupply effort:
- There was no credible evidence obtained that the Vice-President or any member of his
staff directly or actively participated in the contra resupply effort that existed during the
Boland Amendment prohibition on military aid to the contras. To the contrary, the OVP's
[Office of the Vice President] staff was largely excluded from RIG meetings when contra
matters were discussed and during which North openly discussed operational details of
his contra efforts.
- OIC contends that defense counsel for Caspar Weinberger indicated their intent to
call President Bush as a witness. In fact, President Bush was never subpoenaed or
included on any witness list.
- The sole allusion to the possibility that Secretary Weinberger's counsel might attempt
to call President Bush occurred two weeks before the Weinberger trial was to com-
mence in a pre-trial conference during which numerous matters were discussed. The
possibility that President Bush would actually be called to testify was always remote.
Furthermore, there was little chance that President Bush would actually be required to
testify even if called. Secretary Weinberger's counsel did not give any notice to the
White House of an intent to call President Bush nor was it likely that counsel could have
made the required showing that President Bush would provide any testimony that
Could not have been obtained through other means. The slim possibility that he could
be called as a witness was not a factor in issuing the pardons.
IV—President Bush's Diary
- President Bush issued the pardons of Caspar Weinberger and others on December
- That evening, Judge Walsh publicly proclaimed President Bush to be a "subject" of his
investigation on ABC's Nightline for allegedly failing to produce earlier a personal
diary of primarily political thoughts. The public pronouncement constituted a
remarkable departure from prevailing prosecutorial standards of conduct. Judge Walsh
then began a new investigation into the timing of the production of the Bush diary, a
diary that was exculpatory and contained information that would have helped, not
hurt, President Bush's reelection chances.
- At the time of Judge Walsh's proclamation, OIC had already reviewed the diary and
was aware of its personal, political nature. As OIC later stated in its Report, the Bush
diary did not warrant a reopening of the investigation.
- As the Report also acknowledges, "Bush's notes themselves proved not as significant"
as others. In fact, the diary was made after the events of Iran-contra and corroborated
his lack of knowledge as events were uncovered.
- The Report implies that President Bush was aware that his diary dictation was
responsive to OIC's document requests and purposefully did not produce the material.
In support, the Report cites a 1987 Bush diary entry that indicates surprise at Secretary
Shultz' production of his personal, contemporaneous notes dictated immediately
following meetings with President Reagan. Contrary to the Report's implication,
President Bush never believed that his random, personal dictation on a variety of issues,
contemporaneous only with the aftermath and not the events of Iran-contra, was
responsive to any OIC document request until September 1992 when his staff
reviewed the diary. President Bush was concerned, however, that by keeping their
own, sometimes unreliable notes of confidential communications with the President,
cabinet members could have a chilling effect upon the ability of the Executive to benefit
from frank and candid discussions. Hence, the passage in his diary relating to Secretary
- The bottom line is that President Bush turned over all of his responsive documents on
V— President Bush's Cooperation
- Completely at odds with the Report's implication of willful withholding of documents
is the following passage in the Report:
Related to the issue of the diary was the production of the chron files. When the
Iran/contra document request was circulated, Bush instructed [Suzie] Peake to "just give
them everything." (Emphasis added.)
- The Report fails to acknowledge that Peake was one of the people who typed the
dictated diary. If President Bush was trying to withhold the diary, he never would have
given Peake such an instruction. Furthermore, none of the other staff members who had
knowledge of President Bush's diary dictation, Don Rhodes, Jack Steel, and Betty
Green, believed that the diary was responsive to OIC's document requests.
- The Report does acknowledge that when the diary was discovered in a personal safe
by Patty Presock in late September 1992, President Bush, who was in the middle of
the campaign, immediately stated "let's call Boyden and he can sort it out." Mr. Gray
subsequently reviewed and turned over the diary to OIC. President Bush's policy was
always to provide OIC whatever material it requested.
A—1993 Document Production
- The Report contends that in 1993 King & Spalding adopted a "very narrow
approach to the OIC document request, allowing production of only those materials
that related to the production of the diary." The report asserts that King & Spalding
claimed that all other documents requested wore protected by the attorney-client
privilege. Again, OIC's position is contrary to the facts.
- By letter dated January 27, 1993 . . . King & Spalding informed OIC as follows:
- Although it is our understanding that the [OIC is] investigating the delay in the
production of President Bush's November/December 1986 dictation transcripts, consistent
with your request we will nevertheless provide you non-privileged documents which
related generally to Irancontra.
- In accordance with our representation, King & Spalding reviewed 111 boxes of files
stored at the National Archives and produced approximately 6,500 pages of
nonprivileged documents related to Iran-contra and unrelated to the diary production
issue. King & Spalding also produced all documents, regardless of privilege, related to
the diary production.
- OIC lawyers originally directed King & Spalding to review 400 boxes of documents
stored at the Bush Presidential Materials Project in College Station, Texas but later
backed off once they realized the breadth of their request. (See letter dated February
22, 1993, Attachment 3). King & Spald-
ing subsequently produced 326 pages of documents from College Station relating to the
diary production issue.
- Finally, King & Spalding also produced President Bush's "chron" files to OIC in their
entirety, constituting in excess of 29,000 pages of documents. (The chron files had been
made available to OIC prior to then Vice-President Bush's deposition in 1988.) Only a
total of 14 documents were withheld because of attorney-client privilege. President
Bush never asserted, as would be his right, executive privilege over any documents.
B—Interview of George Bush
- President Bush fully cooperated with the OIC investigation. He voluntarily gave a 5
hour videotaped deposition to OIC lawyers in 1988 covering the entire subject of
Irancontra. In addition, he was interviewed at length by the FBI. In all respects, he was
truthful and candid—the Report never contends otherwise.
- The Report, however, contends that the investigation of President Bush was
somehow incomplete, citing OIC's inability to question President Bush further in 1993.
As is evident by the following chronology, OIC had effectively finished its investigation
in September 1992 and absent the issuance of the pardons would never have sought
another deposition of President Bush.
- In the summer of 1992, OIC indicated to the White House that it might seek
additional information from President Bush in the form of interrogatories. Later in the
summer, OIC postponed until after the election any request for additional information.
- In September 1992, OIC reported to the special D.C. Court of Appeals panel (the
"Special Panel") that the investigation was complete, barring unforeseen developments
at the upcoming Weinberger and Claridge trials. The Report's admission that OIC had
concluded its investigation is inconsistent with any need or even desire on the part of
OIC to interview President Bush again on the substance of Iran-contra.
- After the election, OIC remained silent regarding the notion of obtaining additional
information from President Bush through interrogatories.
- OIC did not renew its request for responses to interrogatories even after the White
House informed OIC on December 11, 1992 about the discovery of President Bush's
- It was the issuance of the pardons on December 24, 1992 that triggered OIC's
deposition request to President Bush and the general reopening of the investigation.
- In its Report, OIC misstated the negotiations, or lack thereof, surrounding a possible
second Bush deposition in 1993. The following are the facts.
- First, Judge Walsh turned down Griffin Bell's offer to have Judge Walsh conduct
President Bush's deposition. Judge Walsh stated that he was too busy preparing the
Report and that it would be necessary for his deputy, Craig Gillen, to conduct the
- In addition to Judge Walsh's refusal to conduct the deposition, OIC refused to
consider any reasonable limitations on the deposition, including the following specific
- That the deposition be conducted in Houston or any location other than
OIC's office in D.C.
- That there be some general understanding of the time to be devoted to the
deposition. OIC would not even commit to finishing in one day.
- That there be an agreement as to the scope of the questioning. We would
have considered favorably a request to explore new Iran/contra material or
issues, in addition to the questions surrounding production of the diary. OIC
made no counterproposal.
- That the inquiry be conducted, as originally contemplated, through
- That there be some assurances concerning the purpose of the inquiry and
- OIC never discussed with King & Spalding lawyers any one of these proposals, as
King & Spalding fully expected OIC would. Mr. Gillen's response in his February 26,
1993 letter . . . was that "further negotiation was pointless." In fact, OIC refused to
negotiate on any points.
- If OIC believed that President Bush had important additional information as the
Report suggests, OIC would have negotiated over the terms of a voluntary deposition.
If President Bush remained an "important witness," despite having already submitted to
a lengthy deposition and FBI interview OIC would have issued a grand jury subpoena.
OIC's excuse for not doing so, the absence of an "appropriate likelihood of a criminal
prosecution," misstates the standard for issuance of a grand jury subpoena to a witness.
VI—Remaining Questions for President Bush
- The Report lists seven areas of inquiry that OIC would have covered with President
Bush had another deposition occurred in 1993. Any deposition would have been
cumulative of the previous wide-ranging deposition and FBI interview conducted of
- Three months before the pardons issued, OIC represented to the Special Panel that
the investigation was finished. Thereafter, no circumstances changed that warranted
another deposition of President Bush. Certainly, the diary produced in December 1992
did not warrant an additional deposition on the substance of Iran-contra. OIC's own
Report stated "They [the diaries] did not justify re-opening the investigation."
- President Bush's knowledge of Iran-contra has been explored to exhaustion,
beginning with his December 3, 1986 speech to AEI, continuing with his 5 hour
deposition by OIC, his FBI interview and countless press conferences
and inquiries. OIC's suggestion that the investigation of President Bush was "regrettably
incomplete" is nonsense.
Reagan Responses to Iran Contra [Compare this televised speech, given on March 4, 1987, with later Reagan statements found below.] Source: Reagan Speech about Iran Contra, delivered March 4, 1987
- My fellow Americans: I've spoken to you from this historic office on many occasions and about many things. The power of
the Presidency is often thought to reside within this Oval Office. Yet it doesn't rest here; it rests in you, the American
people, and in your trust. Your trust is what gives a President his powers of leadership and his personal strength, and it's
what I want to talk to you about this evening.
- For the past 3 months, I've been silent on the revelations about Iran. And you must have been thinking: "Well, why doesn't
he tell us what's happening? Why doesn't he just speak to us as he has in the past when we've faced troubles or
tragedies?" Others of you, I guess, were thinking: "What's he doing hiding out in the White House?" Well, the reason I
haven't spoken to you before now is this: You deserve the truth. And as frustrating as the waiting has been, I felt it was
improper to come to you with sketchy reports, or possibly even erroneous statements, which would then have to be
corrected, creating even more doubt and confusion. There's been enough of that.
- I've paid a price for my silence in terms of your trust and confidence. But I've had to wait, as you have, for the complete
story. That's why I appointed Ambassador David Abshire as my special counselor to help get out the thousands of
documents to the various investigations. And I appointed a special review board, the Tower board, which took on the
chore of pulling the truth together for me and getting to the bottom of things. It has now issued its findings.
- I'm often accused of being an optimist, and it's true I had to hunt pretty hard to find any good news in the Board's report.
As you know, it's well-stocked with criticisms, which I'll discuss in a moment; but I was very relieved to read this sentence:
"... the Board is convinced that the President does indeed want the full story to be told." And that will continue to be my
pledge to you as the other investigations go forward.
- I want to thank the members of the panel: former Senator John Tower, former Secretary of State Edmund Muskie, and
former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft. They have done the Nation, as well as me personally, a great service by
submitting a report of such integrity and depth. They have my genuine and enduring gratitude.
- I've studied the Board's report. Its findings are honest, convincing, and highly critical; and I accept them. And tonight I
want to share with you my thoughts on these findings and report to you on the actions I'm taking to implement the Board's
- First, let me say I take full responsibility for my own actions and for those of my administration. As angry as I may be
about activities undertaken without my knowledge, I am still accountable for those activities. As disappointed as I may be
in some who served me, I'm still the one who must answer to the American people for this behavior. And as personally
distasteful as I find secret bank accounts and diverted funds - well, as the Navy would say, this happened on my watch.
- Let's start with the part that is the most controversial. A few months ago I told the American people I did not trade arms
for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that's true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not As the
Tower board reported, what began as a strategic opening to Iran deteriorated, in its implementation, into trading arms for
hostages. This runs counter to my own beliefs, to administration policy, and to the original strategy we had in mind. There
are reasons why it happened, but no excuses. It was a mistake.
- I undertook the original Iran initiative in order to develop relations with those who might assume leadership in a
post-Khomeini government. It's clear from the Board's report, however, that I let my personal concern for the hostages
spill over into the geo- political strategy of reaching out to Iran. I asked so many questions about the hostages' welfare
that I didn't ask enough about the specifics of the total Iran plan.
- Let me say to the hostage families: We have not given up. We never will. And I promise you we'll use every legitimate
means to free your loved ones from captivity. But I must also caution that those Americans who freely remain in such
dangerous areas must know that they're responsible for their own safety.
- Now, another major aspect of the Board's findings regards the transfer of funds to the Nicaraguan contras. The Tower
board wasn't able to find out what happened to this money, so the facts here will be left to the continuing investigations of
the court-appointed Independent Counsel and the two congressional investigating committees. I'm confident the truth will
come out about this matter, as well. As I told the Tower board, I didn't know about any diversion of funds to the contras.
But as President, I cannot escape responsibility.
- Much has been said about my management style, a style that's worked successfully for me during 8 years as Governor of
California and for most of my Presidency. The way I work is to identify the problem, find the right individuals to do the job,
and then let them go to it. I've found this invariably brings out the best in people. They seem to rise to their full capability,
and in the long run you get more done.
- When it came to managing the NSC staff, let's face it, my style didn't match its previous track record. I've already begun
correcting this. As a start, yesterday I met with the entire professional staff of the National Security Council. I defined for
them the values I want to guide the national security policies of this country. I told them that I wanted a policy that was as
justifiable and understandable in public as it was in secret. I wanted a policy that reflected the will of the Congress as well
as of the White House. And I told them that there'll be no more freelancing by individuals when it comes to our national
- You've heard a lot about the staff of the National Security Council in recent months. Well, I can tell you, they are good and
dedicated government employees, who put in long hours for the Nation's benefit. They are eager and anxious to serve
- One thing still upsetting me, however, is that no one kept proper records of meetings or decisions. This led to my failure
to recollect whether I approved an arms shipment before or after the fact. I did approve it; I just can't say specifically
when. Well, rest assured, there's plenty of recordkeeping now going on at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
- For nearly a week now, I've been studying the Board's report I want the American people to know that this wrenching
ordeal of recent months has not been in vain. I endorse every one of the Tower board's recommendations. In fact, I'm
going beyond its recommendations so as to put the house in even better order.
- I'm taking action in three basic areas: personnel, national security policy, and the process for making sure that the system
works. First, personnel - I've brought in an accomplished and highly respected new team here at the White House. They
bring new blood, new energy, and new credibility and experience.
- Former Senator Howard Baker, my new Chief of Staff, possesses a breadth of legislative and foreign affairs skills that's
impossible to match. I'm hopeful that his experience as minority and majority leader of the Senate can help us forge a
new partnership with the Congress, especially on foreign and national security policies. I'm genuinely honored that he's
given up his own Presidential aspirations to serve the country as my Chief of Staff.
- Frank Carlucci, my new national security adviser, is respected for his experience in government and trusted for his
judgment and counsel. Under him, the NSC staff is being rebuilt with proper management discipline. Already, almost half
the NSC professional staff is comprised of new people.
- Yesterday I nominated William Webster, a man of sterling reputation, to be Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Mr. Webster has served as Director of the FBI and as a U.S. District Court judge. He understands the meaning of "rule of
- So that his knowledge of national security matters can be available to me on a continuing basis, I will also appoint John
Tower to serve as a member of my Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. I am considering other changes in personnel,
and I'll move more furniture, as I see fit, in the weeks and months ahead.
- Second, in the area of national security policy, I have ordered the NSC to begin a comprehensive review of all covert
operations. I have also directed that any covert activity be in support of clear policy objectives and in compliance with
American values. I expect a covert policy that if Americans saw it on the front page of their newspaper, they'd say, "That
makes sense." I have had issued a directive prohibiting the NSC staff itself from undertaking covert operations - no ifs,
ands, or buts. I have asked Vice President Bush to reconvene his task force on terrorism to review our terrorist policy in
light of the events that have occurred.
- Third, in terms of the process of reaching national security decisions, I am adopting in total the Tower report's model of
how the NSC process and staff should work. I am directing Mr. Carlucci to take the necessary steps to make that
happen. He will report back to me on further reforms that might be needed. I've created the post of NSC legal adviser to
assure a greater sensitivity to matters of law.
- I am also determined to make the congressional oversight process work. Proper procedures for consultation with the
Congress will be followed, not only in letter but in spirit Before the end of March, I will report to the Congress on all the
steps I've taken in line with the Tower board's conclusions.
- Now, what should happen when you make a mistake is this: You take your knocks, you learn your lessons, and then you
move on. That's the healthiest way to deal with a problem. This in no way diminishes the importance of the other
continuing investigations, but the business of our country and our people must proceed. I've gotten this message from
Republicans and Democrats in Congress, from allies around the world, and - if we're reading the signals right - even from
the Soviets. And of course, I've heard the message from you, the American people. You know, by the time you reach my
age, you've made plenty of mistakes. And if you've lived your life properly - so, you learn. You put things in perspective.
You pull your energies together. You change. You go forward.
- My fellow Americans, I have a great deal that I want to accomplish with you and for you over the next 2 years. And the
Lord willing, that's exactly what I intend to do.
- Good night, and God bless you.
Preliminary Statement of Former President Ronald W. Reagan
President Reagan first learned in November of 1986 that proceeds from
United States Government arms sales to Iran may have been diverted
to assist the Nicaraguan resistance movement. He responded immediately
by opening the records of his Administration to congressional investigators
and to an independent investigating commission headed by former Senator
John Tower. He waived of executive privilege and instructed his subordinates
to cooperate fully with all investigations. He asked his Attorney
General to seek the appointment of an independent counsel to investigate
and, where appropriate, to prosecute any violations of criminal law
arising from the events that became known as Iran-Contra.
- Lawrence E. Walsh was appointed on December 19, 1986, to serve as Iran-Contra
Independent Counsel. President Reagan cooperated fully with that investigation from its
inception. He provided the Independent Counsel with unlimited access to the records
of his Administration. He answered the Independent Counsel's questions under oath in
writing and in person. He allowed the Independent Counsel access to all relevant
portions of his diaries. He denied no information to the Independent Counsel. His
cooperation has been both unlimited and unlimited and unstinting.
- President Reagan has never publicly criticized any aspect of the investigation or conduct
of Independent Counsel Walsh. He has refrained from any statement or conduct that
might in any way be perceived as an impediment to the investigation. He declined
requests to pardon individuals being investigated by the Independent Counsel. He did
everything within his power to ensure that the Independent Counsel had the fullest
authority and unfettered discretion to conduct his investigation.
- The Independent Counsel has now completed his almost seven-year investigation, and
it is now both appropriate and necessary for former President Reagan to respond. As
many others have commented, and as his Final Report reveals, the Independent
Counsel has permitted his investigation to become both excessive and vindictive. He
has abused his authority. He has used his office to intimidate and harass individuals and
otherwise to damage the lives of the persons he was given license to investigate. He and
his Final Report have violated the policies of the Department of Justice that he was
required by law to uphold, and he has disregarded the standards and ethics imposed
uniformly on public prosecutors. His Final Report exceeds the authority given to him by
law. He has used it to disseminate false and unfounded speculation, opinion and
innuendo. His Final Report is not a chronicle of facts, but a prolonged justification of his
own excessive investigation and a defamation of the individuals he was empowered to
- Independent Counsel Walsh found no credible evidence of personal wrongdoing by
President Reagan or violation by the former President of any criminal laws. See, e.g.,
Final Report of the Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra Matters, Vol. 1, at xiii
(Aug. 4, 1993) ("[T]he investigation found no credible evidence that President Reagan
violated any criminal statute.") (emphasis added) [hereinafter Final Report] . . . (the
former President's conduct fell well short of criminality") (emphasis added). Yet in
his Final Report the Independent Counsel attempts to indict President Reagan for
alleged misconduct by others and to hint, without the benefit of any evidence, at
wrongdoing by the former President himself.
- The Independent Counsel's Final Report is the product of almost seven-year's work
involving sixty-eight lawyers and hundreds of investigators. It is several hundred pages
and several hundred-thousand words long. It is based upon years of secret grand jury
interrogations to which only the Independent Counsel has had access. It is therefore
impossible for anyone injured by the Report adequately to respond to it without
comparable resources and access to the same materials. However, the following pages
respond to the principal assertions and conclusions of the Independent Counsel. They
demonstrate that, except for matters already considered by Congress and the courts,
the Independent Counsel's speculation and conclusions regarding alleged misconduct
by many individuals, including former President Reagan, are without foundation, and
reflect, at best, a misunderstanding of the events he has investigated and a slanted and
completely misleading rendition of them.
Executive Summary: The Facts of Iran-Contra [according to the Reagan defense team]
- The essential facts of Iran-Contra are as follows:
- In the summer of 1985, the Reagan Administration, at the urging and with the
assistance of the Israeli government, determined to explore forming a relationship with
moderates in the government of Iran who were preparing to seek power upon the
death of Ayatollah Khomeini. The Iranians offered to demonstrate their "bona fides" by
attempting to assist the United States in achieving the release of American hostages
being held in Lebanon. To demonstrate the good faith of the United States in engaging
in these discussions, the United States agreed to sell a limited amount of arms to these
moderate an government officials. President Reagan was informed of and approved the
initiative, which at first involved Israel's shipment of U.S.-made TOW and HAWK
missiles to Iran, and, subsequently involved direct shipments of a limited amount of
arms to Iran by the United States. Three hostages were released during the
eighteen-month Iran initiative, which was first publicly reported on November 3, 1986,
and terminated shortly thereafter.
- Beginning in 1983, Congress sought to impose a series of legal restrictions on the use
of certain appropriated funds by the Reagan Administration to support the Nicaraguan
Democratic Resistance, or "Contras," in their efforts to resist the excesses and
expansionism of the communist "Sandinistas," who had seized
control of the Nicaraguan government in 1979. Congress enacted and subsequently
repeatedly amended appropriations riders, the so-called Boland Amendments, to
restrict certain Executive Branch agencies from providing certain types of aid to the
Contras. President Reagan acted in compliance with the Boland Amendments and
directed his subordinates to do so as well.
- In connection with a preliminary investigation of the Iranian arms sales directed by
Attorney General Edwin Meese III over the weekend of November 21–23, 1986, the
Attorney General's staff discovered a memorandum in the files of Lt. Col. Oliver L.
North indicating that funds from the Iranian arms transactions may have been diverted
to support the Contras. President Reagan was first informed on November 24, 1986,
that a diversion may have occurred, and on November 25, 1986, the President and the
Attorney General held a press conference to disclose the discovery of the possible
diversion of funds. President Reagan moved immediately thereafter to assist
congressional investigations of these events, authorized the creation of an independent
Executive Branch investigation and urged the appointment of an independent counsel by
the Judiciary to conduct a third investigation. He opened the records of his
Administration to these three separate independent investigations.
Response of Former President Reagan to the Independent Counsel's Final Report
- The Response of former President Reagan to the Final Report demonstrates the following:
- The Iran-Contra Independent Counsel has misused and abused the reporting
process that is mandated by the independent counsel statute. The Final Report unfairly
and unnecessarily injures the rights and reputations of individuals, relies on innuendo,
speculation and conjecture instead of proof, violates established standards governing
the conduct of prosecutors, and improperly relies on secret grand jury materials to
support the Independent Counsel's many accusations.
- The Independent Counsel's principal accusation in his Final Report is that officials at
the highest levels of the Reagan Administration engaged in a "cover-up" designed to
conceal the fact that President Reagan had contemporaneous knowledge of the 1985
arms shipments. There was, however, no "cover-up." To the contrary, President
Reagan repeatedly insisted, both publicly and privately, that the complete facts of
Iran-Contra be publicly aired and that his Administration cooperate fully with
investigators. Moreover, the evidence is overwhelming that the essential facts of the an
initiative were readily and repeatedly disclosed by President Reagan and his top
advisers. The contemporaneous notes of participants in the meetings referred to by the
Independent Counsel independently refute the notion of a cover-up and demonstrate
that the Independent Counsel has falsely depicted the events that he purports to
describe. In fact, President Reagan's knowledge of the 1985 arms transactions
supports, not undermines, the legality of those transactions.
- The Independent Counsel's contention that President Reagan and his senior advisers
and Cabinet officials participated in a strategy to make National Security Council
("NSC") staff member Lt. Col. North, and National Security Advisers Robert C.
McFarlane and John M. Poindexter "scapegoats" with respect to Iran-Contra is
demonstrably false. President Reagan took full responsibility for the an initiative from
the outset. He also accepted responsibility for all actions within the scope of his
instructions taken by his subordinates in support of the Contras. But he was not aware
of and could not responsibly be blamed for the diversion of funds to the Contras, the
destruction of records by individuals acting contrary to his instructions or other conduct
that was not authorized or sanctioned. The "scapegoat" theory of the Independent
Counsel has been advanced and repeatedly rejected since the first public revelation of
Iran-contra, and was rejected by the Independent Counsel himself in the cases that he
prosecuted. His Final Report adds nothing to the record except his own, internally
inconsistent, personal theory.
- The Independent Counsel repeatedly seeks to convey the impression that
high-ranking Reagan Administration officials, including the President, violated civil laws
and Executive Orders in carrying out the Iranian initiative, particularly with regard to the
1985 arms shipments. But there is, in fact, strong authority supporting the legality of the
Iranian arms shipments. The President had the power and responsibility to take certain
measures to advance U.S. policies and interests and the constitutional discretion to
protect the lives and liberty of Americans in foreign countries. The President properly
relied on legal experts to ensure that his actions were lawful, as the Independent
Counsel grudgingly acknowledges. The Iranian initiative was consistent with other
applicable laws, and the Independent Counsel has provided no reasoned legal analysis
to the contrary.
- Although the Independent Counsel concedes that there is "no credible evidence that
the President authorized or was aware of the diversion of profits from the Iran arms
sales to assist the contras," Final Report, Vol. 1, at 443 (emphasis added), his Final
Report indulges in the irresponsible speculation that the President must have known
about the diversion. However, that speculation has no evidentiary support whatsoever,
and is directly contradicted by the findings of the Tower Commission and the
Congressional Committees that investigated Iran-Contra. President Reagan has
consistently, unequivocally and categorically stated that he had no knowledge of the
diversion, and every bit of credible evidence in the record—including the voluminous
record compiled by Independent Counsel Walsh—is consistent with the President's
clear and unwavering position on this point. The Independent Counsel's Report adds
nothing new beyond his capricious speculation.
- The Independent Counsel asserts that President Reagan is responsible for "set[ting]
the stage" for alleged violations of the law by his subordinates by expressing his
continuing Public support for the Contras. . . . However, President Reagan gave
repeated instructions to members of his Administration to follow the law and abide by
the Boland restrictions. The activities authorized by President Reagan complied with the Boland Amendments and all other laws of the United States. The Independent Counsel has been unable to establish that any conduct by the President the various vague appropriations riders referred to as the Boland Amendments.
- Source: Final Report of the Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra Matters, Vol. III:
Comments and Materials Submitted by Individuals and Their Attorneys
Responding to Volume I of the Final Report, December 3, 1993 (Washington,
D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1993), 21–35, 639–646. References to
attachments in George Bush's statement have been omitted.