Lies Spun into History
Better than Democrats, Bob Dole and other Republicans grasped the value of
defending heroes, even imperfect ones. So the GOP battled the
charges that Bill Casey and other Republicans played a nearly
treasonous dirty trick to win in 1980.
The defense required enforcing absurd alibis, bullying
investigators and massaging the facts. But it worked. The
Democrats acquiesced and the Republicans proved that they
respected history enough to falsify it, the final chapter of the
October Surprise X-Files.
By Robert Parry
- October Surprise X-Files (Part 8): Lies Spun into
WASHINGTON -- Bill Clinton's Inauguration ended the 12-year
Reagan-Bush reign, but the Republicans still had the legacy. On
Feb. 3, 1993, two weeks after Clinton moved into the White
House, GOP congressmen took to the House floor to celebrate the
debunking of the October Surprise allegations. During a
"special order," Rep. Henry Hyde denounced the long-standing
suspicions as a "myth." He trumpeted the bipartisan House
task force's finding -- that William Casey and George Bush did
nothing to undercut President Carter's Iranian hostage talks in
"October Surprise" quickly passed from allegation to Republican
grievance. It would become a GOP battle cry, echoing through
the next three years as Sen. Bob Dole and others demanded
investigations of Clinton by citing the attention given the
"baseless" accusations from 1980. House Democrats may have
thought they were buying some political peace by clearing Casey
and Bush on the 1980 matter. But the Democrats were wrong.
In a gleeful House colloquy, Hyde, a white-haired rotund
Republican from Illinois, did acknowledge some weakness in the
House task force findings. Casey's 1980 passport had
disappeared, as had key pages of his calendar, Hyde admitted. He
noted, too, that the chief of French intelligence, Alexandre
deMarenches, had told his biographer that Casey, while Ronald
Reagan's campaign director, did hold hostage talks with the
Iranians in Paris in October 1980. Several French intelligence
officials were corroborating that assertion.
But Hyde insisted that two solid blocks of evidence proved that
the October Surprise allegations were false. Hyde's first
cornerstone was hard-rock alibis for Casey and other suspects.
"We were able to locate [Casey's] whereabouts with virtual
certainty" on the dates when he allegedly met with Iranians in
Europe to discuss the hostages, Hyde declared.
For instance, Casey had been in California on the late July 1980
weekend of a purported meeting with Iranians in Madrid, Hyde
said. There was an alibi, too, that weekend for the late Cyrus
Hashemi, a mysterious Iranian banker with ties to the CIA,
Tehran's radical mullahs and the corrupt Bank of Credit and
Commerce International (BCCI). Hashemi was in Connecticut, Hyde
said -- even though Hashemi's older brother Jamshid testified
under oath that he and Cyrus were with Casey and a senior
Iranian cleric in Madrid.
The second debunking cornerstone, Hyde added, was the absence of
anything incriminating on FBI wiretaps of Cyrus Hashemi over
five months in late 1980 and early 1981. Hyde noted that
according to the task force report, "there is not a single
indication that William Casey had contact with Cyrus or Jamshid
Hashemi. ...Indeed, there is no indication on the tapes that
Casey or any other individuals associated with the Reagan
campaign had contact with any persons representing or associated
with the Iranian government."
But under any careful inspection, both of Hyde's cornerstones
crumbled. The alibis were laughably bogus. The clear and
documented record showed that the House investigators put Casey
in California on the wrong weekend. (See The Consortium, Feb.
Plus, the "proof" of Hashemi's presence in Connecticut consisted
of phone records showing two one-minute calls, one from a lawyer
to Hashemi's home and one back to the lawyer. There was no
evidence that Hashemi received or made the calls, and the
pattern more likely fit a call asking a family member when
Hashemi was due home and the second call giving the answer.
The Republicans were wrong, too, about the absence of
incriminating evidence on the Hashemi wiretaps. But since those
wiretaps were secret in 1993, that argument was impossible to
assess then. But when I accessed the raw House documents (which
I dubbed the "October Surprise X-Files") in a remote Capitol
Hill storage room many months later, I found a classified
summary of the FBI bugging.
According to that summary, the bugs actually revealed Cyrus
Hashemi deeply enmeshed with Republicans on arms deals to Iran
in fall 1980 as well as in business schemes with Bill Casey's
close friend, John Shaheen. And contrary to the task force's
claim of "not a single indication" of contact between Casey and
Cyrus Hashemi, the Iranian banker was recorded as boasting that
he and Casey had been "close friends" for years. That claim was
supported by a CIA memo which stated that Casey recruited Cyrus
Hashemi into a sensitive business arrangement in 1979. (See The
Consortium, Dec. 31, 1995)
But beyond that, the secret FBI summary showed Hashemi receiving
a $3 million offshore deposit, arranged by a Houston lawyer who
said he was a longtime associate of then-vice presidential
candidate George Bush. The Houston lawyer, Harrel Tillman, also
told me in an interview that in 1980, he was doubling as a
consultant to Iran's Islamic government.
After Reagan defeated Carter in November 1980, Tillman was back
on the line promising help from the "Bush people" for one of
Hashemi's floundering business deals. Then, the FBI wiretaps
picked up Hashemi getting a cash payment, via a courier arriving
on the Concorde, from the corrupt bank, BCCI. (For more
details, see The Consortium, Dec. 31, 1995, & Jan. 15, 1996)
The House task force concealed these documents and then grossly
miswrote an important chapter of recent American history. But
even the primary author, the chief counsel, E. Lawrence Barcella
Jr., saw potential problems caused by the report's omissions.
According to another document I found in the storage room,
Barcella ordered his staff "to put some language in, as a trap
door" to allow a last-minute escape should complaints arise
about selective use of evidence.
Barcella also needed to duck another problem -- conflicts of
interest confronting him from the October Surprise case. Not
only was the chief counsel friends with some of the suspects, he
had earned more than $2 million from BCCI for his law firm which
was headed by former Sen. Paul Laxalt, who had served as
Reagan's campaign finance chairman in 1980. The
conflict-of-interest difficulty was handled simply by purging
any reference to BCCI and Barcella's associates from the final
report. (See The Consortium, Feb. 29, 1996)
Inside the House task force, Barcella encountered some
resistance to the report's bogus alibis and twisted logic. When
a draft was belatedly shown to Democrats on the panel, in
December 1992, one congressman, Mervyn Dymally of California,
authorized the writing of a formal dissent.
Dymally's staff aide, Marwan Burgan, quickly spotted some of the
report's absurd alibis, including the claim that because someone
wrote down Casey's home phone number on one day that proved
Casey was home, or that because a plane flew from San Francisco
directly to London on another important date that Casey must
have been onboard.
According to sources who saw Dymally's dissent, it argued that
"just because phones ring and planes fly doesn't mean that
someone is there to answer the phone or is on the plane." But
Dymally's reasonable observations were fiercely opposed by
Barcella, who enlisted the task force chairman, Rep. Lee
Hamilton, D-Ind., to pressure Dymally into withdrawing the
If the dissent were not pulled, Barcella and Hamilton threatened
to denounce Dymally for missing task force meetings and for not
having Burgan cleared to review all the classified material.
Hamilton warned Dymally, who was retiring from Congress, that he
[Hamilton] would "come down hard" on Dymally. The next day,
Hamilton fired all the staffers who had worked on Dymally's
Seeing the firings as retribution (though Hamilton denied a
connection), Dymally relented and withdrew the dissent, which
was never made public. With the road cleared, the task force
report, resplendent in its irrationality, rolled ahead to become
the official history of the United States.
But the silencing of Dymally was only the final act in a
long-running campaign to halt any serious accounting for
Reagan-Bush misdeeds in the 1980s. Two weeks earlier, on
Christmas Eve 1992, President Bush had pardoned six Iran-contra
conspirators, effectively ending the Iran-contra investigation
by independent counsel Lawrence Walsh. Bush also left office
with his aides ripping out the hard discs of their computers and
still stonewalling congressional requests for documents about
the secret arming of Iraq.
Dole to the Defense
On Bush was aided in these national security cover-ups by a
sometimes political rival, Senate Republican Leader Bob Dole.
The dour Kansan, now seeking the Republican presidential
nomination, played the same protective role for Bush that House
Minority Leader Gerald Ford had for President Nixon in the early
days of the Watergate scandal in the 1970s.
Throughout the Iran-contra affair and its spin-off scandals,
Dole fought rear-guard actions to frustrate investigations. In
doing so, he earned credit with the GOP's dominant right wing,
which was in denial that Ronald Reagan could do anything wrong.
At the Conservative Political Action Conference in 1993, Dole
boasted how he had gone to the Senate floor "on countless
occasions" to hector special prosecutor Walsh, often over petty
"I've discussed his violation of Washington, D.C. tax laws, his
first-class air fares, the lavish office space," Dole said.
"I've talked about his breakfasts, his paid-for room service and
dinners provided by American taxpayers." Dole bragged that he
even examined the "political leanings" of Walsh's staff lawyers,
some of whom were then set up for bashing in the right-wing
But on the October Surprise issue, Dole went straight for the
jugular. Not content to harass an ongoing investigation, Dole
mounted a filibuster against any independent Senate inquiry. On
Nov. 22, 1991, Dole invoked party discipline to defeat a cloture
vote and block special funding for the investigation.
When a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee still sponsored a
small-scale investigation, Dole's lieutenants, Sens. Mitch
McConnell and Jesse Helms, summoned the chief counsel, Reid
Weingarten, into a closed-door meeting. McConnell brow-beat
Weingarten with personal insults. Helms barred Weingarten's
investigators from interviewing witnesses outside Washington.
Though hamstrung by lack of funds and hampered by Republicans,
Weingarten did make some significant discoveries. He obtained
testimony corroborating claims that Casey had known Cyrus
Hashemi before the 1980 election. His investigators found that
some FBI wiretaps of Hashemi might have been intentionally
erased. He revealed that key Casey records -- the 1980 passport
and several calendar pages -- were missing and that the Casey
family was withholding documents.
In the end, however, the best Weingarten could do was conclude
that Casey had been "fishing in troubled waters" on the hostage
issue in 1980 and was engaged in "informal, clandestine, and
potentially dangerous efforts on behalf of the Reagan campaign
to gather intelligence on the volatile and unpredictable course
of the hostage negotiations."'
Thanks to the Dole filibuster, most of the October Surprise
investigation was delivered into the friendlier hands of the
House task force. Then, with crucial evidence hidden, the House
task force concluded that Ronald Reagan won the Presidency
without recourse to a very dirty trick. In that way, the
historical legitimacy of the Reagan and Bush presidencies was
Henry Hyde and the other Republicans could celebrate.
(c) Copyright 1996 -- Please Do Not Re-Post
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