Iran Contra: Rehabilitation

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Many persons who were deeply involved and implicated in the Reagan administration's Iran/Contra scandal have found themselves to be rehabilitated, forgiven and accepted in American Society. This article does not attempt to detail these persons' biographies, only to identify the individuals, correlate them to one another, and to offer a few relevant citations to both SourceWatch articles, and external resources.

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 Iran/Contra affair. The final report was issued August 4, 1993.

Volume I, the nonclassified part of the report, can be viewed online, courtesy of the Federation of American Scientists:

Final Report of the Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra Matters
Volume I: Investigations and Prosecutions
Lawrence E. Walsh, Independent Counsel
August 4, 1993, Washington, D.C.
The report is also available from the US Government Printing Office as an executable compressed ascii file

When citing the above report in this article, it will be referred to as simply, The Walsh Report

Elliott Abrams

In a plea bargain to avoid perjury indictments, Elliott Abrams pled guilty October 7, 1991, to two misdemeanor charges of withholding information from Congress, about secret government efforts to support the Nicaraguan contra rebels during a ban on such aid.

  • Pardoned by George Herbert Walker Bush on December 24, 1992, as one of his last official acts as the 41st President of the United States.
  • Appointed by President George Walker Bush on February 2, 2005, as Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Global Democracy Strategy.
See: The Walsh Report
Part VII Investigations and Cases: Officers of the Department of State
Chapter 25 U.S. v. Elliott Abrams,

Charles Allen

Director of Central Intelligence William Webster formally reprimanded Charles Allen for failing to comply with the DCI's request for full cooperation in the agency's internal Iran-Contra scandal investigation. After failing to have the reprimand lifted through the regular appeal process, Allen retained future DCI R. James Woolsey, Jr. as an attorney and was successful in applying pressure to have the reprimand lifted. [Eclipse: The Last Days of the CIA, Mark Perry, 1992, p. 216.]

After a 47-year career with the CIA, Allen was appointed in August 2005 to be chief intelligence officer at the Department of Homeland Security. Allen's position at DHS was not subject to Senate confirmation, which might have examined Allen's Iran-Contra reprimand and controversial statements about the U.S. Constitution. Attorney and former 9/11 Commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste submitted written testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence asserting that Allen's position should have been subject to Senate confirmation.

Charles Allen, the CIA's national intelligence officer for counter-terrorism during the Iran Contra Affair, was deeply involved with passing information related to Ghorbanifar's arms dealings between North, Clarridge and Reagan's staff.

Allen is mentioned in mutiple parts of the Iran Contra Report:

  • Part I: Iran/contra: The Underlying Facts
  • Part III: The Operational Conspiracy: A Legal Analysis
  • Chapter 1: United States v. Robert C. McFarlane
    • "...Ledeen continued his contacts with Ghorbanifar into a new phase of the arms shipments, meeting with Duane Clarridge and Charles Allen of the CIA, in early December 1985 to ``brief them on Ghorbanifar, who he was, how I had known him, what we had done with him, to lay the groundwork for possible cooperation between them and him."- Footnote 123
  • Chapter 8: The Enterprise and Its Finances
    • "...Charles Allen of the CIA learned of Ghorbanifar's financial difficulties in August 1986; he knew previously about the mark-up in arms sales prices from intelligence reports; he had suspected that the extra funds were used for an Iran/contra diversion. In August, Allen warned his superior, CIA Director of Intelligence Richard Kerr. Kerr warned Deputy Director for Central Intelligence Robert Gates.46 By early October, Allen warned Casey."

      "CIA officers Allen and George Cave then met with Furmark. On October 22, Furmark told them that Iran proceeds possibly were being diverted to the contras. In early November 1986, Furmark met with Allen and gave him Ghorbanifar's bank account number. On November 24, 1986, Furmark said he met again with Casey and showed him records indicating that Khashoggi had put up $25 million for the arms sales, and that $10 million was owed."
    • ..."Hakim informed Allen that Ghorbanifar and 'his banker' were involved in a planned shipment of 1,250 TOWs to Iran. Allen alerted Customs and the FBI, which reported back that there was no evidence to substantiate the claim."

      North was aware that he would have to pay Ghorbanifar some amount of money to eliminate him from the deals. In a September 10, 1986, memorandum to Casey, Allen relayed that North had told him that Poindexter believed that 'to cut Ghorbanifar out, Ollie will have to raise a minimum of $4 million.'" - footnote 48
    • also grand jury testimony cited in footnotes 34 and 41
  • Chapter 15: William J. Casey
    • Charles Allen, the CIA national intelligence officer for counterterrorism, was asked by North in early September 1985 to arrange for collection of intelligence about arms broker Manucher Ghorbanifar, his Iranian contact Mohsen Kangarlu, and their contacts in Lebanon. North said the request was related to a possible release of hostage Buckley.

      On September 13, 1985, Allen informed Casey of North's request when he called Casey in New York to tell him that the intelligence reports ordered by North indicated a possible hostage release 44 and arms transaction. Allen testified that North had directed him to restrict the intelligence reports to McFarlane, North, Casey and his deputy John McMahon, the secretary of defense and his senior military adviser, but to exclude Shultz and the State Department.

      On January 25, while Casey was overseas, McMahon cabled Casey to inform him that as a result of a meeting between North and Ghorbanifar in London, North had agreed that the CIA would furnish highly sophisticated intelligence to the Iranians, including ``a map depicting the order of battle on the Iran/Iraq border showing units, troops, tanks, electronic installations. . . . McMahon noted that ``[e]veryone here at headquarters advises against this operation not only because we feel the principal involved [Ghorbanifar] is a liar and has a record of deceit, but, secondly, we would be aiding and abetting the wrong people. Notwithstanding McMahon's strong objections, Casey did not change his mind. As a result, Allen passed the intelligence to Ghorbanifar in London on January 25.
    • Many more citations in this chapter
  • Chapter 18: United States v. Duane R. Clarridge
  • Chapter 23: Conduct of CIA Officials in November 1986
    • Allen made false statements under oath:
      • As in most other investigations involving illegal false statements, the key questions in assessing the liability of senior CIA officials for these statements were, first, whether each official knew at the time he spoke that his statement was false, and second, whether that official deliberately made that statement. The answers to some of these questions are found upon close examination of what happened at the CIA prior to Casey's appearances before the intelligence committees on November 21, 1986.

        Disclosure and Alarm

        "According to Charles Allen, the National Intelligence Officer for Counter-Terrorism and the CIA analyst who worked most closely with the Iran initiative, the CIA's first response to the public disclosures of the initiative in early November 1986 was no response. Allen departed on a trip to Israel, during which he met with the Israeli representative in the 1986 arms sales, Amiram Nir. Nir quizzed Allen on how the United States would respond to the disclosures, and Allen was chagrined to admit that the United States apparently intended to do nothing.

        On the day before leaving on this trip, Allen met at the Key Bridge Marriott for the third time with Roy Furmark, an associate of arms-sales financier Adnan Khashoggi. Furmark earlier had given Allen evidence that profits from the Iran arms sales may have been diverted to other projects, including the contras. Furmark told Allen that investors in the initiative who had not been paid were threatening to expose it. (Memorandum from Allen to Casey, 11/7/86, ER 46449-52.)

        Unbeknownst to Allen, some in the U.S. Government, even in the CIA, were preparing to respond to the growing firestorm. Poindexter asked North on November 5, 1986, to prepare a chronology of involvement in the initiative. The next day, after a morning staff meeting, the chief of the CIA's Iran Branch (C/Iran) 21 -- who was the CIA's day-to-day operational contact with the NSC in the late stages of the initiative -- decided on his own that he would prepare a chronology of CIA involvement. C/Iran's chronology contained generally accurate statements about CIA involvement in the Iran arms sales, including a note that CIA activities began in September 1985. On the advice of his immediate superior, Chief of the CIA's Near East Division Thomas Twetten, C/Iran personally delivered a copy of his chronology to North on November 6. Upon reading the section concerning the CIA's 1985 activities, North expressed amazement that C/Iran wrote about it, since 'you were not involved.'"

Duane 'Dewey' R. Clarridge

On November 26, 1991, a federal Grand Jury indicted Duane 'Dewey' R. Clarridge on seven counts of perjury and false statements to congressional investigators and to the President's Special Review Board (the Tower Commission) stemming from his testimony about his role in the November 1985 arms shipment to Iran.

Clarridge was a prime player in the secret mining of the harbor of Managua, Nicaragua, a country America was not at war with.

  • Pardoned pretrial by President George H.W. Bush on December 24, 1992, as he was ending his presidency in what may be the only instance of a presidential pardon issued to an individual before trial in a case that the President was a material witness.
See: The Walsh Report
Part VI Investigations and Cases: Officers of the Central Intelligence Agency 199
Chapter 18 U.S. v. Duane R. Clarridge.

Manucher Ghorbanifar

Manucher Ghorbanifar is an Iranian ex pat who was an integral part of the Iranian weapons trading. He was introduced to Robert C. McFarlane through Michael Ledeen. Ghorbanifar claimed he could secure the release of the CIA Station Chief hostage, William Buckley, and was used as the proxy in five weapons deliveries. In the first three of the weapons exchanges, only Buckley's release was secured.

Experienced CIA employees strongly dissented over the use of Ghorbanifar, since he failed a CIA lie detector administered earlier, and already had a burn notice issued against him.

"[William J.] Casey supported the decision to have the national security adviser direct the operations of the Iran arms sales. He also overrode strong opposition from seasoned CIA professionals to using Manucher Ghorbanifar, retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Richard V. Secord, and Albert Hakim in the effort. Ghorbanifar was 'a liar and has a record of deceit,' warned Casey's deputy, John McMahon. '[W]e would be aiding and abetting the wrong people.'"
The Walsh Report - Part VI Investigations and Cases: Officers of the Central Intelligence Agency

Ghorbanifar appears in the following sections of The Walsh Report, among others:

Ghorbanifar was also involved with the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, and has been mentioned in connection to Douglas Feith, Michael Ledeen, Curt Weldon, and Able Danger.

Robert C. McFarlane

Robert C. "Bud" McFarlane was National Security Advisor to President Reagan between October 1983 and December 1985. His duties included providing Reagan with a daily briefing about world events, and often included, meetings with Vice President George Herbert Walker Bush, Secretary of State George P. Shultz, Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger and CIA Director William J. Casey, the principal members comprising Reagan's National Security Council.

McFarlane's previous government service included, National Security Advisor deputy for William Clark, Secretary of State Counselor for Alexander M. Haig, Jr., staff Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, military aide to National Security Advisor for Henry Kissinger.

Under President Reagan, the NSC staff assumed a role beyond that of an advisory or coordinating body: It at times became operational, taking on primary responsibility for the execution of the Iran and contra covert operations. McFarlane did not shrink from the operational tasks that were of high personal interest to the President. He delegated some of them to a hard-driving NSC staff member, Marine Lt. Col. Oliver L. North, McFarlane's deputy director of political-military affairs.
The Walsh Report - Part IV Investigations and Cases: The National Security Council Staff - Chapter 1: US v Robert C McFarlane

President Reagan tasked McFarlane with keeping the Contras viable despite the Boland Amendments, which prohibited US military assistance. McFarlane along with William J. Casey were the chief advocates of trading weapons for hostages with the Iranians.

McFarlane gave untruthful testimony during several Iran/Contra investigations. On March 11, 1988, he accepted a plea bargain, and pled guilty to four misdemeanor charges that he unlawfully withheld information from Congress.

McFarlane was pardoned by George Herbert Walker Bush on December 24, 1992.

Edwin Meese III

Edwin Meese III was not charged in connection with Iran/Contra, but as Attorney General, admitted to moonlighting; vetting the Reagan Administration for exposure to Iran/Contra. As Chief prosecutorial officer of the United States, this, at the very least, had the appearance of a conflict of interest.

"Meese was conducting the November 21-24 investigation as 'counselor' and 'friend' to the President, not as the nation's chief law enforcement officer. Independent Counsel concluded that he was not so much searching for the truth about the November 1985 HAWK shipment, as he was building a case of deniability for his client-in-fact, President Reagan."
See: The Walsh Report
Part IX Investigations of the White House
Chapter 31 Edwin Meese, III.

John Negroponte

Although only mentioned once in the Walsh Report in footnote 55 of the Oliver North chapter, John Negroponte was US ambassador to Honduras 1981-1985. During that time, Honduras was ruled by a US-backed military regime accused of human rights violations and death squads. Still the American foreign military aid to Honduras during this period grew from $4,000,000 to over $77,000,000. Honduras was also used as a staging area for the Nicaraguan Contra insurgents, which were illegally aided by the Reagan Administration in violation of congressional mandate (The Boland Amendment).

  • The Honduran Rights Commission in 1994, which documented the disappearance and torture of over 184 political opponents of the military regime in Honduras, accused Negroponte of many human rights violations.
  • John Negroponte was appointed as The United States Ambassador to the United Nations by President George W. Bush.

Oliver North

Oliver L. North was convicted of altering and destroying documents, accepting an illegal gratuity, and aiding and abetting in the obstruction of Congress. The convictions were reversed on appeal because of constitutional grounds, not evidentiary.

Two of the three Federal Judges hearing the North and [John M.] Poindexter appeals were Reagan appointees, Laurence H. Silberman and David Sentelle. They were assigned by William H. Rehnquist, then associate justice to the Supreme Court, who was subsequently elevated to the position of Chief Justice by Ronald Reagan. Both the Poindexter and North appeals were decided on 2-1 splits with Silberman and Sentelle deciding in favor of overturning the convictions. This has caused many to question the propriety of the appeals cases. Silberman is also alleged to have been a primary player in the October Surprise.

See: The Walsh Report
Part IV Investigations and Cases: The National Security Council Staff
Chapter 2 U.S. v. Oliver L. North.

John M. Poindexter

John M. Poindexter was tried and convicted in April 1990 of five felonies: conspiracy, false statements, destruction and removal of records, and obstruction of Congress.

The convictions were reversed on appeal on constitutional grounds, not evidentiary. (See last paragraph in the North section above.)

See: The Walsh Report
Part IV Investigations and Cases: The National Security Council Staff
Chapter 3 U.S. v. John M. Poindexter.

George P. Shultz

George P. Shultz was Secretary of State for President Reagan during the Iran/Contra scandal. He testified to Congress regarding the scandal in 1986 and 1987, stating that the Department of State had opposed the weapons for hostage trades, but had little in the way of contemporaneous knowledge about the deals. In 1990 and 1991, the Walsh investigation discovered documents that had been withheld from them previously which indicated that the State Department had a great deal of knowledge about the weapons trades at the time they were occurring and were closely monitoring the transactions.

Shultz's Testimony Was Incorrect, But It Could Not Be Proven That It Was Willfully False ...
Independent Counsel's investigation established that central and important aspects of Shultz's testimony to congressional committees in late 1986 and 1987 regarding his knowledge of arms shipments to Iran were incorrect.
[. . .]
In his 1992 interviews with the OIC, Shultz did not contest the accuracy of these notes and ultimately acknowledged that his testimony had been incorrect.
Notwithstanding the gravity of Shultz's errors while testifying before Congress in 1986 and 1987, Independent Counsel declined to prosecute because the evidence did not establish beyond a reasonable doubt that his testimony was willfully false. Contemporaneous notes exposed the inaccuracy of Shultz's assertions. However difficult it may be to believe that Shultz could forget events that troubled him so deeply, it was significant that none of the contemporaneous notes created in November and December 1986 suggest that Shultz in fact remembered more or different information than that to which he testified.
See: The Walsh Report
Part VII Investigations and Cases: Officers of the Department of State. Chapter 24. The Investigation of State Department Officials: Shultz, Hill and Platt.

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